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Sixers suffer predictable letdown loss in Memphis, life still mostly beautiful

Sixers suffer predictable letdown loss in Memphis, life still mostly beautiful

You could see this one coming a mile away. As a fan, you always hope that your team is somehow immunized itself against the letdown loss, but even the Golden State Warriors get 'em a couple times a season, and these Philadelphia 76ers ain't the Warriors (yet). And so, after a 5-1 stretch against six teams all in the playoff hunt, the Sixers dropped a should've-been-easy one to the Memphis Grizzlies, thanks to sparkling performances from NBA luminaries Myke Henry, Andre Layton and Jerrell Martin.(And if you can't tell which of those three names I just made up, well, that's sort of the point.) 

The culprits? Well, throw a blind one at your Sixers dartboard: Sloppy turnovers, streaky shooting, foul-prone defense, lack of playmaking down the stretch, and of course, a big fat blown lead. (Only 15 points this time -- this Sixers team rolls out of bed and blows a 15-point lead at this point.) Amazingly, the L came despite a career performance from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot -- 20 points on 6-8 shooting from deep -- and a combined seven triples from Robert Covington and Dario Saric, which would usually be a pretty solid recipe for Sixers success. 

But Joel Embiid (15 on 5-13 shooting) and Ben Simmons (six on 3-8 FG) were both kept in check, and in the fourth quarter, nobody could either hit a shot or make a clean pass, with more wild crosscourt dishes over the heads of our wing shooters than I can ever remember in one game. Most disturbingly, Jo missed three clutch free throws late, after being practically automatic from the line in clutch situations all year. And yet, somehow, the Sixers could've still won it -- down two with about ten seconds to go, they got a steal under their own basket. But Covington badly misread the time and score -- or just picked a terrible time for one hell of a heat check -- and dribbled out for a sprawling three attempt that was beyond off. Final score: Grizzlies 105, Sixers 101. 

Maybe it was an NFC Championship hangover. Maybe the Sixers wanted to drop one to a team battling with the Lakers in the tanking rankings. Or maybe the Sixers are a good NBA team that occasionally lays an egg against an undermanned, under-talented opponent, because that's a thing that happens in this league, and it hadn't happened yet to Philly in 2018. It sucks, and in this case it costs the Sixers two places in the East standings, but on the whole it's mostly unavoidable. 

Oh well. Chance for redemption Wednesday against Chicago. Even last January, during the invention of #SixersJanuary, the team still lost five games against their ten wins. 5-2 is still about the inverse of where I thought we'd be at this point in the month. Wash this one out with a couple hundred viewings of the Robinson pick six and the ATV going up the Rocky steps and we should all be fine. 

Joel Embiid belongs among the very best

Joel Embiid belongs among the very best

You can't really fake it at an All-Star Game, especially one where people are actually trying. There's no lucking your way into a couple open shots and a couple generous foul calls and all of a sudden rolling your way to a 30-plus-point game; there's no isolating one defensive mismatch and exploiting it to make yourself look like '01 Shaq. Generally speaking, an All-Star Game shakes out as it should: The best shine the brightest, and those who aren't ready yet fade into the periphery with extra motivation to step things up for next year. 

And that's why it's so awesome that Joel Embiid, a mere 75 games into his NBA career, unquestionably belonged on the biggest stage with the biggest names last night. Playing for Stephen Curry's squad, JoJo posted 19 points on 8-13 shooting, with eight rebounds and two blocks, and a +5 rating for the night -- the only positive plus/minus for the Steph starters. 

Out of context, those numbers may not sound particularly impressive for an All-Star outing, considering the final score of 2017's game was 192-182. But thanks to increased financial and personal motivation in this year's game, the competition was ratcheted up, and though the final score was still a robust 148-145 -- Team LeBron emerging victorious -- no one player really went off in this one, with Team Stephen being led in scoring by DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard (21 each). Consider that JoJo's 19 outpaced both teammates James Harden (12 points on 5-19 FG) and Curry himself (13 on 4-14 FG) -- only two of the greatest scorers in NBA history. 

And what's more, down the stretch it was Embiid who seemed most ready to rise to the moment. With minutes remaining and his team up one, Embiid posted up LeBron James -- LeBron James!! -- for an easy bucket, and with the score tied and under a minute left, he got stuck isolated on the perimeter against Paul George, and still ended up blocking George's shot to win the possession back for his team. Had his squad been able to hang on in this one, he would've been able to mount a fairly compelling case for MVP, which would've made him the first player since at least the 20th century to win top honors in his first All-Star appearance. 

Of course, it didn't happen that way, and Team Stephen coach Mike D'Antoni might get most of the blame as to why. With his squad up one and Team LeBron inbounding out of a timeout, D'Antoni opted for some incomprehensible reason to bench Embiid, his best defensive player -- which, somewhat unsurprisingly, resulted in LeBron scoring quickly and easily at the basket to go up one, and then DeMar DeRozan throwing the ball away at the other end. Embiid entered for the final possession, with his team needing a three to tie, and he had a chance to hoist one, but understandably passed to Curry, who drove his way into traffic and ended up not even getting a shot off. Team LeBron won, and James took home his third MVP. 

Frustrating finish, but it can't ruin what came before: Joel Embiid squaring off against the best the NBA has to offer, and proving himself a factor. (Also nailed a three and then blocked a Russell Westbrook drive at the other end, btw, so that beautiful random feud lives on.) He got as good as he gave -- LeBron drilled a triple in his face immediately after JoJo took him down low -- but he was in the mix, and a crucial part of his team's successes and failures. It should be the first of many such All-Star starring roles for Embiid, and hopefully the last for some time that doesn't also include him being flanked by Process Truster in Arms Ben Simmons. 

But even if it isn't -- even if nothing good ever happens again with Joel, and we look back at this All-Star Game 25 years from now as the high point of this career -- it still would have all been worth it. It was worth it when the team went 10-5 two Januarys ago. It was maybe worth it when Embiid gave his first-ever post-game interview following a Sixers win. 

That's what people will never understand about The Process, and that's what makes nights like this so gratifying. Franchises go decades, entire generations, without getting a moment to feel this way about one of their players, and even getting the chance to feel it about one of ours is worth seasons of sacrifice. JoJo lives, and somewhere in the bowels of the Staples Center last night, Our Once and Always Dark Lord Sam Hinkie had to be there and be smiling. Hope he enjoyed the Fergie national anthem as much as I did, as well. 

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.