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Sixers are better than all but the best teams

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Sixers are better than all but the best teams

Generally speaking, there have been two types of wins for the Sixers this season: ones where their stars bail out their shooters and ones where their shooters bail out their stars. It's felt pretty rare that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have dominated inside the arc at the same time that Robert Covington and JJ Redick have rained down holy hellfire from beyond it. But more often than not, at least one of those tandems is making the magic happen, and making Philly tough to outpace for 48 minutes. Last night, it was mostly the latter, as Covington hit six huge triples to break out of his week-long shooting slump, and help the Sixers earn a 108-103 win over the Detroit Pistons (and newly ranked Process foe Andre Drummond). 

It wasn't the best of nights for Embiid and Simmons. Embiid ended with respectable numbers of 25 and 10, also fouling out Drummond (who dared return fire over JoJo's trash-talking pregame and was subsequently booed all night at WFC) while posting them, but he also shot an unsightly 7 for 21, with six turnovers and no assists, as he became perhaps a tad myopic in his Drummond demolition. And Simmons was uncharacteristically reserved on offense, scoring just five points on six shots — both career lows — and only handing out six assists in 39 minutes. What seemed at halftime like it was going to be an easy Sixers win instead became a grind-it-out W, as Philly's third-quarter offense imploded and Detroit vaporized the 16-point halftime lead by the start of the fourth. 

But Covington's 25 kept the Sixers afloat, as did a combined 35 from JJ Redick (6-10 FG, 1-3 3PT) and Dario Saric (6-11 FG, 2-5 3PT). Though Redick has run scalding and frigid with his long-range shooting this season, he's starting to show some of the other things he can do to stay productive while frosty from deep — not only nailing twos off curls and step-ins, but moving the ball exceptionally, ending with a team- and personal season-high seven dimes last night. And Dario has really come on since Thanksgiving, averaging 18 and 8, shooting 53 percent from the field and filling in the gaps in the Sixers' offense with smart cuts, extra passes and second-chance-opportunity creation. 

Though the Sixers' bench is struggling a little bit — particularly in the absence of unit anchor T.J. McConnell, who missed his second straight last night with a shoulder contusion — the starting lineup has proven capable of hanging with just about any opposing first five. Simmons-Redick-Covington-Saric-Embiid is an insane net plus-19 points per 100 possessions in 150 minutes of on-court time, according to Basketball-Reference, which is fourth-best in the whole league among lineups that have played at least 100 minutes together. 

And that's sort of the point with the Sixers at this juncture of the season. Through 22 games, they've played about as insane a schedule as any team — 14 of their 22 games coming against teams currently with winning records, including a combined seven against the Warriors, Rockets, Celtics and Cavaliers — and they're still four games over .500, and beating pretty much every team except those four. The Pistons are 0-2 against the Sixers, and 14-6 against the rest of the NBA. The Sixers aren't good enough to hang with the league's true elite, but you have to like their chances against pretty much anyone else. A quarter through the season, and their only truly bad loss came in that absurd collapse to the Kings. It's disconcerting rooting for a team this reliable.
 
But when you have a first five like the Sixers do, stocked with franchise-caliber talents and championship-caliber supporting players, it's hardly surprising that you end up winning a lot of games. They won't be true contenders this season — the decisive 1-6 record against the league's real contenders should ably demonstrate as much — but they're already in the tier just below that truly elite class, and with a couple easy-appearing games coming up on their schedule (home to the Suns and Lakers this week), their record may soon start to reflect it as well. Injury concerns are the only thing separating these Sixers from not only making the playoffs, but being a legitimate problem for their first-round opponent. To anticipate that things might get even better than this in seasons to come — which, y'know, they probably should — feels damned greedy. 

JJ Redick responds to video in which he allegedly used racial slur

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SB Nation/Twitter

JJ Redick responds to video in which he allegedly used racial slur

Updated at 12:50 a.m.

Early Sunday, a video surfaced on social media that appeared to put Sixers’ guard JJ Redick in an extremely poor light. Redick has since responded to clear up the situation.

Here’s what happened:

At about 8 a.m., a post appeared on Reddit showing a screenshot and caption alleging that Redick said a racial slur during a video from NBA players wishing Chinese fans a Happy New Year. The video caused a huge uproar on social media. If you wish to see the video, it is located here, at the top.

On the surface, without a response, it looked odd from the start. Redick, who we have come to know as a well-spoken individual who is typically very appreciative of basketball fans, isn’t someone you’d expect this from, let alone with a camera pointing directly at his face with an NBA microphone in front of his lips.

He offered this response on his official Twitter account, saying he was tongue-tied and had no intentions of saying what he did on the video.

Fans reacted on both sides of the issue, some still asking for an apology and others taking Redick for his word. 

On Sunday night, Redick followed up with a longer statement on his Twitter and Instagram, where he further explained himself and indeed issued an apology.

Please read. Thank you.

A post shared by JJ Redick (@jjredick) on

Early Monday, Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin tweeted a statement saying that he spoke with Redick and believes the Sixers' guard didn't say a racial slur.

With the All-Star Break going on, Redick won’t be available for a few more days for the media to ask him about this. There’s a chance this story will continue into next week.

The Process is ready for primetime

The Process is ready for primetime

Basically, you saw everything you'd want to see from Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid during the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Friday night, as they kept doing what they've basically done all February: winning. 

Ben Simmons was electric all over the court, ending with 11 points (5-5 FG, mostly dunks), six boards, a game-high 13 assists and a team-high four steals. A still-locked-in Dario Saric was the beneficiary of a handful of those dimes, ending with 18 points (7-11 FG, 4-7 3PT), three boards and five assists. 

Joel Embiid had an underwhelming stat line in his thankfully clipped playing time (just eight minutes after sitting out Wednesday's game — we'll see him more on Sunday), ending with just five points and two boards, and not exactly displaying the defensive dominance we're accustomed to from our big man. But the five points came on back-to-back possessions in the third, where JoJo nailed a top-of-the-break three and then scored on a dunk following a Fultzian spin move to the basket, showing the range of his skills in an appropriately breathtaking (and Internet-slaying) manner. 

And of course, the Sixers — I mean, Team World — won handily, outscoring Team USA in every quarter and ultimately triumphing 155-124. Even though Sacramento's Bogdan Bogdanovic took home MVP honors on the night for his white-hot shooting night (26 points on 9-16 FG, including a handful of Steph Curry-esque extended pull-up triples), I thought Simmons was the best all-around player on the floor, another thumb in the eye of the All-Star committee that snubbed him (four times!) for the proper game on Sunday night. 

Perhaps more importantly, the Sixers' presence just dominated the game altogether. Hell, they made up 3/5 of Team World's starting lineup — no other team had more than two representatives, across both squads, though the Lakers would have were Lonzo Ball available — and in the broadcast booth, the TNT guys couldn't stop talking about Embiid all night, comparing him to Hakeem and debating whether they'd ever seen a big man of his versatility before. 

And to think, this year they'll actually be represented on Saturday and Sunday, too. Hopefully Ben and Dario get a nice, relaxing All-Star break from here — they've certainly earned it — and now, it's Embiid's spotlight. The Process is ready for primetime, baby, and longtime Trusters should make sure to enjoy this moment as much as JoJo himself undoubtedly will.