The700Level

Shouts to Jerryd Bayless and Amir Johnson

Shouts to Jerryd Bayless and Amir Johnson

It's getting increasingly hard to calibrate the Philadelphia 76ers' Moral Win-Loss record. The way the Sixers got up 25-8 in the game's opening minutes, only to slowly let the lead bleed away and ultimately fall behind by eight in the third quarter was so infuriating I wondered if I'd leave the game fuming even if we came back to win. But come back to win the Sixers did — largely thanks to the brilliance of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, who combined (almost evenly) for a staggering 40 points, 25 rebounds, 15 assists, 5 steals and 3 blocks — and the fourth-quarter was impressive enough you still had to leave the 119-109 victory with at least a half-smile. 

But while our twin pillars were the primary reason the Sixers are currently sitting at .500 (with a record besides 0-0) for the first time since 2013, I wanna give credit to two of our much-maligned (by myself in particular) bench guys as well. As far south as things went in the middle of this one, they could've gone downright Key West if not for Amir Johnson and Jerryd Bayless. 

After a slow-in-all-ways start to the season for Amir, he's really starting to show his value now as a rebounder, as a pick-and-roll partner, even as a low-post finisher. One game after posting his first double-double as a Sixer, he managed 12 and 8 in just 17 minutes last night, crucial in helping the Sixers get back to sea level when they were floundering in the third. And Bayless, coming off the bench for the first time all season with J.J. Redick's return to the starting five, was huge with his 14 points, three dimes and no turnovers. Not only did he hit one of the biggest shots of the game — a triple to put the Sixers up seven with five to go, which got them breathing room they never gave back — but he also made a couple crucial defensive plays, blocking a fourth-quarter drive by Isaiah Taylor and forcing (and winning) a late jump ball against Luke Babbitt. 

I've been pretty hard on both of our pricey vets so far this season, because I've mostly found them exceedingly frustrating to watch — Bayless' decision-making has been largely woeful, and Johnson's low-post athleticism and finesse has left much to be desired. But Johnson appears to have steadied, averaging 10 and 8 on 67% shooting over his last three and looking at least mildly mobile on defense, and it's a lot easier to like Jerryd Bayless coming off the bench than it is to like him starting and playing 40 minutes (!!!) like he did in Houston on Wednesday. Maybe they're Sixers after all. 

And boy, did we need 'em in this one, since everyone else was Breaking Benjamin-cold midway through the game. The previously scorching Robert Covington was temporarily sidelined with knee troubles, J.J. Redick couldn't get one to drop, Dario Saric's inability to convert from any range was reaching comedic proportions, and even Joel Embiid was looking too sluggish to be relied upon. Without Johnson and Bayless, this one maybe slips away altogether, leading to our worst loss of the early season — rather than just one we're annoyed to have to pay attention to for all four quarters. 

So, 4-4 now, with a very reasonable chance to go over .500 at home on Friday against the Indiana Pacers. With Redick missing time, Markelle Fultz a sidelined mess and Dario going through Lonzo Ball-like shooting struggles, it's pretty remarkable that that things have evened out as quickly as they have. And with Embiid actually playing over 30 minutes against Atlanta last night — for the first time in the NBA — clearly anything is possible for Philly this season.

Joel Embiid swatted Donovan Mitchell, drew a tech, and ignited a Philly explosion

Joel Embiid swatted Donovan Mitchell, drew a tech, and ignited a Philly explosion

We didn't even know if Joel Embiid was going to play just hours before tonight's contest as he was listed as a game-time decision with knee soreness.

Play he did. And he treated the Wells Fargo Center crowd to one of the more energetic moments of the evening. 

The Sixers beat the Jazz in South Philly on Monday night, 107-86, to bounce back from that tough loss on Saturday (see observations).

Embiid was a big part of that. He finished with 15 points, 11 boards, three assists and a couple of blocks.

It was one block on Donovan Mitchell in particular that had The Center going bonkers.

Watch:

The block, the stare down, the technical foul signal, the crowd pumping ... Embiid provided a perfect moment.

"It was some good theater and the two embraced afterwards. It was fun to watch," Marc Zumoff said after the game.

Mitchell wrote it off as a rookie mistake.

"Just gotta keep my head," Mitchell said. "It's a learning experience, especially in that situation when we're making a comeback."

Whether they were making a comeback or not is debatable. 

"I shouldn't have done it. I should have just let it go."

Brett Brown was OK with the play.

"I'm always mindful of how do we stay disciplined," Brown said. "Jo understands it's risky if you taunt. I want my guys playing with an edge. I want them to feel some level of swagger and feel good about themselves. That was a big play. It certainly got the crowd involved."

As for his part in the incident, Embiid admitted he may have embellished just a bit. The big guy is not that easy to move.

"I flopped and he got a technical for it," Embiid said. "That's basically how it happened. It's all fun. After the game, we shook hands."

Processing Sixers' tasty new concession food … the meat pie

christina-betz-meat-pie.jpg
Christina Betz | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Processing Sixers' tasty new concession food … the meat pie

The Sixers on Wednesday sent over a box of Four’N Twenty Australian beef pies to promote The Center's newest concession food. The meat pies are in homage to future Hall of Famer, Ben Simmons, who hails from the Land Down Under and was the driving force for helping the team sign its first international sponsor.

These magnificent meat pies will be available at home games beginning Wednesday. 

Naturally, I was intrigued to try the foreign (and free) food. A little research on the brand gave me the advice to "tuck in to a classic," which I gladly agreed to.

The packaging recommended an oven, but without access to one at work, and hunger too great to wait for the toaster oven, I went straight for the four and a half minutes in the microwave.

Three and half minutes later (our microwave is one of the industrial super-strong ones), I had this waiting for me:

Armed with just a plastic fork and knife, I decided to dive in and give "THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN TASTE" a try.

First impression?

The pastry was way crispier than I thought was achievable from a microwave. Like this was some "bake in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes" crispiness. I was having some serious issues cutting through with my plastic knife.

Once I managed to split it open, I was rewarded with a steaming pastry filled with a dark brown meat stuffing.

After that initial cut, things took a little turn for the worse.

I was forced to use my hands to break and eat the rest of it following several unsuccessful attempts to cut bite-sized pieces with the tools I had.

The pie was … really tasty. The meat filling was just a delicious ground beef mixture, with no weird spices or flavors, and the pastry was perfectly flaky and crispy. I could definitely see myself wanting this again when I’m craving a comfort food or want to eat a classier hamburger.

My main issue with the meat pie lies within the actual feasibility of eating it during a game. I had some serious struggles while I was sitting at a desk, with a plate and at least semi-useful utensils. I can’t really imagine eating a pie in a stadium seat between two rabid Processors.

My top-5 Australian exports
1. Ben Simmons
2. Hugh Jackman
3. Nicole Kidman
4. Walkabouts
5. Boxed Wine
.
.
.
10. Brett Brown's accent
11. Meat pies

Final thought: This meat pie is a really solid, albeit, strange new food for a sporting event. I can only really see its success playing out in two ways: A lot of greasy, meaty high fives or a messier version of the Flyers' bracelet debacle if the Sixers drop another game in which they led by 24 points.