The 2 unheralded Sixers driving 17-game win streak

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The 2 unheralded Sixers driving 17-game win streak

It was the shot that symbolized the Sixers' 130-103 Game 1 win over the Heat.

Marco Belinelli fading away, nearly falling into the high-priced courtside seats, but somehow, someway, still managing to bury the shot. He hit 4 of 7 from long range on the night, none tougher than that one. The Sixers, after trailing at the half, outscored the Heat 74-43 in the final two quarters. A nail-biter turned into a rout real quick.  

Belinelli and his partner in crime off the bench, Ersan Ilyasova, combined for 42 points, shooting 7 for 11 from downtown. As a team, the Sixers set a club playoff record hitting 18 three-pointers on 28 attempts. They say necessity is the mother of invention. When Joel Embiid was concussed and fractured his orbital bone on March 28th, Brett Brown had a decision to make. He decided the best course for his team without his all-star big man was to push the tempo. 

They’ve since won nine straight without Embiid and 17 overall. The lion’s share of the credit rightfully will go to Brown, the scintillating play of Ben Simmons and Dario Saric. But the trade deadline additions of Belinelli and Ilyasova have proved to be season-altering for this team.

The Sixers bench is the best of any team still playing. When J.J. Redick exits, there’s barely a beat skipped with Belinelli’s range and skill coming off screens. Ilyasova's ability to stretch a defense while also scoring inside and rebounding has been invaluable. Saturday evening vs. the Heat, Ilyasova scored 17 points on 3 of 4 shooting from three, to go with 14 rebounds in 32 minutes. 

The pair's versatility allows Brown to go small and run the other team out of the building. And the long-range marksmanship can get you back in a game real quick. That was on full display in front of a raucous Wells Fargo Center Saturday. It’s also allowed the team to sustain without Embiid. Make no mistake, the pillars of the Sixers' success going forward are Embiid, Simmons, Saric, Redick and Markelle Fultz. But they are not having this kind of success without Belinelli and Ilyasova.

Sam Hinkie laid the foundation but Bryan Colangelo deserves major props for these additions. They may not have been splashy at the time but the moves were exactly what this team needed. Bringing Belinelli, Ilyasova, now Fultz and Richaun Holmes off the bench provides the Sixers with major firepower on that second unit. That kind of balance is what makes the Sixers a very scary team in the Eastern Conference. And it’s the newcomers who could be the difference makers for a deep playoff run. 

Glenn Robinson III on his role with the Sixers: ‘I don’t really understand it’

Glenn Robinson III on his role with the Sixers: ‘I don’t really understand it’

Glenn Robinson III was having by far the best season of his NBA career, starting for the Warriors, averaging 12.9 points per game and shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

Then he was traded to the Sixers.

Since being acquired by the Sixers along with Alec Burks, Robinson has started two games, come off the bench in four and missed all nine of his three-point attempts.

In an interview with Basketball Insiders’ Spencer Davies, he did not sound pleased with his situation.

Even when (Golden State) played Philly, I showed them what I could do,” Robinson told Davies. “So to play those consistent minutes a night and perform well … that’s the most disappointing part about coming here is that — both of us (are) coming off career years where we’re looking at hopefully big numbers after the season. I know I’ve got a family to feed. So you think about all those things.

“All those things play a role, and then when you come here and your role’s not really explained or you don’t know what’s going on with the trade — it’s not like it was a trade where you come in and immediately have an impact. It’s a little different, so … this team is full of wings, full of guys who can play. So really, I don’t really understand it. But it’s a business, you’ve got to make it happen and go out and try to do your best every night.

Though the Sixers have actually gone 4-2 with Robinson, the team has been in a state of constant change since acquiring him and Burks. Since Robinson has joined, the Sixers have used five different starting lineups. They’ll have to use a sixth Thursday night vs. the Knicks with Joel Embiid out because of a left shoulder sprain. Ben Simmons will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks with nerve impingement in his lower back. 

Robinson had a promising first game after the trade, scoring 10 points on 5 for 6 shooting against the Bulls and moving sharply off the ball, but it’s certainly true that Brett Brown has yet to find a clear role for him.

Last Friday, Robinson talked about the adjustment of moving in the middle of the season. 

“It’s always different,” he said. “You come into a new team and there’s new plays, new personnel. I think that they’ve came it pretty simple when both AB and I have been on the court. Like I said, it’s always different and you kind of learn on the fly and adjust. But teammates have been great, kind of telling us where to be and what to do during the games.”

The 26-year-old is in his second stint with Brown and the Sixers after playing 10 games in Philadelphia his rookie season. 

He still expressed some optimism to Davies that the team can turn the season around. 

“A lot of talent. I think we can go as far as we stick together and want to go,” Robinson told Davies. “We’ve just got a lot of great players and they know how to play the game. That’s the biggest thing, so as long as we can stick together, come together … it’s about defense for this group. We’ve got all the talent in the world to score. I think that we’ve got high chances.”

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This stat shows just how brutal the Sixers have been on the road

This stat shows just how brutal the Sixers have been on the road

It doesn’t take heavy analysis to see that the Sixers are in serious trouble. They’re fifth in the Eastern Conference and both their All-Stars are dealing with injuries

The biggest conundrum with this team is its home and road splits. The Sixers have the best home record in the NBA at 27-2 but fell to 9-21 on the road after a brutal loss to the Cavs Wednesday. 

It was their seventh straight loss on the road and ensured that they will go through the month of February winless away from Wells Fargo Center.

Seems unprecedented, right? Like nobody has ever been this dominant at home and so putrid on the road? Well, that’s because the Sixers are making weird, not-so-great history.

As of now, the Sixers are on pace to be the only team in NBA history to win at least 90 percent of their home games and lose two-thirds of their road games, per Basketball Reference

At 9-21, the Sixers have the same road record as their opponent Thursday, the New York Knicks. Yes, the New York Knicks. The 20-38 Charlotte Hornets have a better road record (11-20).

Brett Brown and it seems like every single player on the team has been asked about the road issues. Nobody has been able to give a concrete answer. Then again, if they had one, this might be figured out.

As it stands, the Sixers are underperforming, and their road woes are the biggest culprit. It won’t get much easier with a four-game West Coast slate that starts Sunday against the Los Angeles Clippers and with Ben Simmons and possibly Joel Embiid still on the shelf.

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