76ers

No-nonsense Philly fans help Sixers beat Bucks in NBA2K simulation

No-nonsense Philly fans help Sixers beat Bucks in NBA2K simulation

The first time the Sixers beat the NBA-best Bucks this season was on Christmas Day. Their second win over Milwaukee was a bit different — it came in an NBA2K simulation Tuesday night on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Here are a few observations on the virtual Sixers’ 72-65 victory:

A game-changing run 

The Sixers went on a 19-0 run starting in the middle of the first quarter to open up an early 16-point lead, and Matisse Thybulle and Alec Burks were two of the primary catalysts.

Thybulle was rewarded for passing up a wide-open dunk, finding Furkan Korkmaz for a three in the left corner. About a minute later, the rookie ripped the ball from the hands of Wesley Matthews, a player 10 years his elder, and cruised in the other direction for a dunk. 

Burks played well on both ends, helping to push the pace and force the Bucks to guard dribble penetration, which they had trouble doing when Antetokounmpo was on the bench. 

The one-man show 

Antetokounmpo was tremendous, scoring 32 points. He just didn’t receive very much help.

The broadcasting crew evidently enjoyed his performance. With Milwaukee trailing 30-16, Antetokounmpo smothered a Tobias Harris drive and blocked his lefty hook attempt, prompting Kevin Harlan to yell out with great enthusiasm, “And the rejection by Giannis!”

The energy was great, but Harlan’s call was perhaps a bit much in the second quarter of a game the Sixers led by 14 … 

Strong game for Harris 

The Sixers’ frontcourt didn’t provide much offense in this one as Joel Embiid scored 10 points and Al Horford only managed four on 1 for 9 shooting. At least his one make was authoritative.

Along with the bench, Harris helped mitigate those struggles. He scored 20 points (7 of 14), crashing the offensive rebounds and playing a determined, physical game. 

A classic Philly fan … 

The 2K fans in attendance at Wells Fargo Center chanted, “Go, Sixers, go!” on a few occasions. That particular chant hasn’t been in the rotation at Wells Fargo Center this year, but maybe the crowd has decided to switch things up a bit with the end of the virtual regular season nearing.

In the second quarter, we witnessed a moment that felt more realistic. As Antetokounmpo dribbled the ball up the floor and paused around the three-point arc, a lone Sixers fan yelled out, “Hey, who’s got Giannis? Come on!”

Even with the Sixers up by double digits, that no-nonsense demand of maximum effort and attention to detail seemed true to real life. 

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Would a neutral site help or hurt the mercurial Sixers?

Would a neutral site help or hurt the mercurial Sixers?

The night the NBA season was suspended back on March 11, we were all wondering about the possibility of the league playing games without fans.

The last player the Sixers media got to speak with was Glenn Robinson III. As he sat at the podium six feet away from us, he pondered what it might be like to play a game with no fans and what might be done to account for a quiet gym.

"I think how they play music when we're on defense, and offense they kind of play the instrumental in the background — maybe they turn that up a little bit," Robinson said. "Maybe they got the fake fans that cheer in the background, so maybe we can do that. That'd be interesting for us to do, is act like there's more fans here."

A reporter mentioned that fake fan noise wasn't a bad idea.

"I'll take that credit," Robinson joked.

Almost three months later, not only do empty stands appear to be a reality, but games at a neutral site in Walt Disney World are part of the return-to-play format approved by players and owners.

While it’s unknown whether the NBA heard Robinson’s idea, that is reportedly a notion the league is considering, with fake crowd noise provided by the folks at NBA 2K.

For the Sixers, the situation will be especially difficult to grasp. They were on pace to have the widest gap between their home and road record in NBA history. 

The happiest place on Earth for the Sixers was the Wells Fargo Center, where they boasted a preposterous 29-2 record. On the road, they had as many wins as the rudderless Knicks with an abysmal 10-24 mark. To make matters worse, the Sixers finished 0-4 in the state of Florida this season with two losses each in Miami and Orlando.

It's hard to know if having no true home-court advantage will hurt the Sixers or their opponents more.

The stakes will be much higher than the previous four games in the Sunshine State, or any game before the season was suspended, for that matter. The Sixers will have two or three “preseason” games and just eight regular-season games — which they absolutely need — before the playoffs begin.

Brett Brown has always referred to the last third of the season as a sprint. This time line is even more accelerated. Perhaps that’ll force his players to have a heightened focus and put their road woes behind them.

“Of course, [playing with no fans is] going to have some level of an impact,” Brown said to reporters on May 15. “I do feel just the mere fact that we'll be playing again might be able to sort of minimize whatever awkwardness playing in front of zero fans is going to teach all of us.”

For those of us at home, the lack of crowd noise, however unfortunate, could add an interesting dynamic. If Joel Embiid is telling an opposing center that they can’t bleeping guard him, we may hear it. When Tobias Harris gets hacked on his way to the lane with no whistle, we may hear the earful he gives the official. When Ben Simmons throws down a rim-rocking dunk, we may hear him bellowing.

It’s uncharted territory for every person involved.

“I think it will be almost comical,” Brown said, “like the communication with referees and the back and forth with players and the rest. I mean, think about that, so much of it really is drowned in 20,000 people — there won't be at all. And so how it will play out, I don't know. None of us have ever done this.”

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The 5 worst Sixers free-agent signings

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The 5 worst Sixers free-agent signings

NBA GMs sometimes feel the temptation to pay average or good players as if they are great.

That description applies to a few of the players listed below in our ranking of the five worst Sixers free-agent signings. For the purposes of this list, we’re reserving judgement on well-paid current Sixers. 

5. Scott Williams 
Then-Sixers GM and head coach John Lucas liked that Williams knew “how to win.” The big man had immediately won three championships after entering the NBA, but the fact that he was on Michael Jordan’s Bulls probably had something to do with that early success. 

Signed to a seven-year contract, Williams only managed to play 212 games with the Sixers, none of which were in the postseason. He posted 5.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game before being traded to the Bucks and eventually facing the Sixers in the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals. In that series, he was suspended for Game 7 because of a hard hit to Allen Iverson’s throat in Game 6. 

4. Brian Skinner 
Skinner’s first stint as a Sixers was solid. Though he wasn’t used much during the 2003 playoffs, he chipped in 17.9 minutes per game during the regular season. After spending a year with the Bucks, Skinner then decided to return to the Sixers, who offered a five-year, $25 million contract.

Besides starting regularly for the first time in his career the season prior, it’s unclear what Skinner had done to merit such a lucrative deal. With Marc Jackson, Kenny Thomas and Corliss Williamson all preferred in the frontcourt by head coach Jim O’Brien, Skinner had a minimal impact, averaging 2.0 points and 2.6 rebounds in 24 games. The Sixers ultimately used his contract in February to help facilitate their ill-fated trade for Chris Webber. 

3. Kenny Thomas 
Seven years and approximately $50 million was far too large a commitment for Thomas, who the Sixers acquired in a 2002 trade with the Rockets and then signed as a restricted free agent.

Thomas wasn’t a bad player — he even averaged a double-double in the 2003-04 season — and he would’ve been viewed in a much kinder light if GM Billy King had given him a shorter and/or less expensive contract. He joined Skinner and Williamson in that deal for Webber, wrapping up his NBA career in Sacramento. 

2. Elton Brand 
Brand was far from a bust as a player with the Sixers after signing his “Philly max” contract. He wasn’t a 20 points, 10 rebounds per game guy anymore, but he was decent when healthy enough to play and praised frequently for his leadership and professionalism. 

Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending torn labrum in his first year with the team. While he was a regular presence in the three years after that, he was diminished physically compared to his prime in Los Angeles. The Sixers released him with one season left on his five-year, $82 million deal under the league’s amnesty clause. 

1. Matt Geiger 
First, it’s important to note that Geiger’s refusal to waive his trade kicker prevented Iverson from being traded to the Pistons ahead of the 2000-01 season. It’s very unlikely the Sixers would’ve won the Eastern Conference without him.

"I looked at Detroit and didn't think Allen and I would've been better off there,” he told reporters in 2001. "So the decision was easy."

Geiger’s contract, however, was excessive — six years and approximately $48 million. He had some bright moments in Philadelphia, including a career-best 13.5 points per game in the 1998-99 season and a 5-for-7 shooting performance in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals (although he fouled out in under 14 minutes), but none of that was enough to make the contract worth it. He retired after four games in the 2001-02 season because of persistent, painful knee problems. 

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