76ers

Why there's hope that Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons can figure this thing out

Why there's hope that Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons can figure this thing out

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were hit with questions about their fit and chemistry during All-Star weekend in Chicago. It’s not surprising. It’s a narrative that’s dominated all other Sixers storylines.

Both players talked about their mutual respect for each other and their relationship was evident during one especially playful moment in Sunday’s game.

After the team’s first practice coming out of the break Wednesday, Brett Brown said he expected his All-Star duo to have each other’s back.

“It kind of is newsworthy because there's so much talk about, can they coexist? How do they play together? Are we gonna play fast? Are we gonna play slow? … To be in Chicago and to talk about one another in that environment on different teams, it didn't surprise me.”

Lost in the pair getting along so swimmingly during All-Star weekend is that their chemistry on the court was perhaps the best we’d ever seen it the Sixers’ win over the Clippers last Tuesday. Both players were dominant as L.A. struggled with the size and skill of Embiid and Simmons.

One of the reasons for that dominance is an action called a snug pick-and-roll. You’ve likely seen it run sporadically over the last couple seasons. It’s essentially a pick-and-roll on the low block with Simmons as the ball handler and Embiid as the screener.

Because there isn’t a ton of space to operate in that action, the Sixers hadn’t had much success running it. It requires chemistry and decisiveness. Against the Clippers, it was easily the most we’ve seen it. More importantly, it was the most success Embiid and Simmons have had with it. 

It’s sort of a microcosm for them on the court. Things weren’t going to click overnight because they’re not a seamless fit. It was always going to take time.

But that game provided hope that this pairing could work yet.

“We've always touched it and at times it really was maybe one of the lowest efficient plays that we ran,” Brown said. “And so we persevered. I still think when you fast forward this thing out and they're both like 30 and 28, that's going to be a primary look for those two. ... We'll continue to look at that, but it's deeper than just sort of an action. I think growing those two with that spirit and different places on the floor interests me a lot.”

Everything with the Sixers begins and ends with Embiid and Simmons. No matter what moves are made around them in the future, it will likely all come down to how they play with each other. 

Even their teammates know it.

“Those two are the guys that keep this thing moving and they have to really embrace each other and have that respect for each other’s games,” Tobias Harris said. “Their games are different, their games are different styles, but in a way they both do complement each other on the floor — I’ve said that since the day I got here and I truly believe it. When they are out there and they are both dominant, like the Clipper game, you can just see it’s like they played together since they were young kids. … Those two, especially and most importantly, have to continue to embrace that night in and night out for us to be a successful team.”

This season hasn’t gone as the Sixers would’ve hoped when Brown brazenly said he wanted the No. 1 seed in the East. That’s not happening — and the two seed isn’t exactly within the Sixers' grasp, either.

Still, for all the talk about being an imperfect fit and coexisting, Embiid and Simmons have 27 games to get this thing right and lead the Sixers on a deep playoff run.

“I would be lying if I didn't say I was thrilled to read what I read [from the All-Star Game], but it doesn't surprise me,” Brown said. “I just think it validates to the rest of the sort of basketball hoop world that life's not as bad as sometimes it's made out to be here in Philadelphia.”

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Matisse Thybulle is a much better defender in real life than in NBA2K

twitch_matisse_thybulle_mikal_bridges.jpg

Matisse Thybulle is a much better defender in real life than in NBA2K

Matisse Thybulle is known for his defense in real life. In NBA2K, that is definitely not the case.

With the NBA season suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak, Thybulle and the Suns’ Mikal Bridges played each other in 2K on Friday night and streamed the action on Twitch.

Though Thybulle gave Bridges a little bit of a scare with a big third quarter, the virtual Suns beat the virtual Sixers, 75-64. 

While the intensity obviously didn’t compare to a typical game night at Wells Fargo Center, both Thybulle and Bridges — a Villanova product and a Sixer for about 20 minutes before a draft-night trade two years ago — were very into it.

Thyulle decided to sub himself into the game after just 28 seconds, and Bridges did the same 30 seconds later. 

“Which one’s shoot again?,” he asked. “Square?” 

As his team fell behind, Thybulle had some stern words for his players.

“Al, you’re better than that,” he said when Al Horford bit on a pump fake. “You’ve been in the league too long to be making those mistakes.” 

When Ben Simmons had a floater blocked, Thybulle wasn’t thrilled. 

“Ben, you’re 7-foot,” he said. “Just dunk it.” 

And a Mike Scott lay-up early in the third wasn’t what Thybulle was hoping to see. 

At one point, he tried begging for mercy from Bridges.

“Stop running pick-and-roll, I don’t know how to guard it,” he said. “Please. Come on, man.” 

Unfortunately for Thybulle, Bridges did not stop and the rookie left with a loss, albeit an entertaining one.

“I apologize to the Sixers, to my family, my friends, the people of Philadelphia,” he said. “This is not acceptable.” 

After personally finishing with no points on 0 for 3 shooting, Thybulle promised he'll be practicing.



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Josh Richardson bests Devin Booker in Sixers' NBA2K simulation win over Suns

Josh Richardson bests Devin Booker in Sixers' NBA2K simulation win over Suns

Even in a video game, the Sixers’ dominance at home continues.

Thanks to some stifling fourth-quarter defense, the Sixers took down the Suns, 76-62, in a simulation on NBA2K Friday.

Led by Josh Richardson and Al Horford, the Sixers went on a 13-4 run in the final period to seal the victory.

Here are observations from the virtual win:

J-Rich outduels Booker

Richardson was given the defensive assignment of trying to contain the high-scoring Devin Booker. Booker, who hung 40 on the Sixers in a real-life game in Phoenix back in November, got off to a hot start.

But so did Richardson.

The difference was the fourth quarter where Booker appeared to be laboring … at least that’s what the little Gatorade cup that popped up next to him would indicate.

It was Richardson’s strip on a Booker drive and lay in on the other end that sparked the Sixers’ fourth quarter run and helped put the game out of reach.

While Booker posted a game-high 27, he wasn’t very efficient, going 10 of 24 from the field. Richardson, on the other hand, had a team-high 22 points on 8 of 12 from the field and 3 of 3 from three. He also added four assists and two steals.

Embiid quiet offensively

If the Sixers deployed the offensive strategy in real life that they did in this sim, Brett Brown would have a lot of explaining to do.

The Sixers never really looked for Joel Embiid in the post until late in the game, where the All-Star center provided two big buckets. He only scored 10 points, but pulled in 15 rebounds and challenged a ton of shots at the rim.

Embiid’s speed rating must be like a 10 because he had trouble getting back on defense all night. There was also a moment where 2K color analyst Greg Anthony compared Phoenix’s DeAndre Ayton to Embiid … which certainly is a take.

Horford and Harris solid

Al Horford pounded the Suns’ bigs early, make 4 of his 5 shots from the field. He cooled off a little in the third, but buried a hook shot over former teammate Aron Baynes to extend the Sixers’ lead to seven before the period ended.

It was on the defensive end down the stretch where Horford shined in this one. He came up with a big steal and rumbled down the other end for a layup to give the Sixers’ their first double-digit lead. A couple possessions later he came up with a big block on Ayton which led to an Embiid bucket on the other end to put the Sixers up 12. Horford finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

Harris scuffled early and wasn’t really aggressive and looking to score. In the second half, he started cutting to the basket and looking for shots around the rim. He ended up with 16 points on 6 of 11. He also came up with two on-ball blocks after being switched onto Booker.


Sorry, Dario

Former Sixer and fan favorite Dario Saric had a tough night dealing with his former mates. Going up against the likes of Embiid and Horford, Saric scored just two points in 17 minutes.

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