It was a game that resembled The Process more than the playoffs, but the Sixers will head to the postseason on a winning note.
In Game 82, T.J. McConnell shined while Zhaire Smith and Jonathon Simmons looked playoff-ready in a 125-109 drubbing of the Bulls to close out the regular season at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday.
The Sixers finish the regular season at 51-31. The Brooklyn Nets appear to be their matchup in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, JJ Redick, Jonah Bolden and James Ennis all sat this one out.
Here are observations from the win.
• When GM Elton Brand said pregame that there's a chance that Embiid could miss Game 1 of the playoffs (see story), the game on the floor definitely felt secondary. Brand did reiterate multiple times that he was "optimistic" that Embiid would be able to play.
“He’s doing everything in his power to be ready for this weekend,” Brand said. “I was in Miami with him. We had a short meeting. He was on his way to HydroWorx, which is an underwater treadmill [facility.] He’s working his butt off to be ready. He’s focused on his diet, he’s focused on his body. I’m optimistic.”
• It was just Smith’s sixth NBA game, but there is a decent chance he’ll get playing time in the playoffs. From what we’ve seen, the Sixers might be OK. Sure, he’s 19 and he’s green, but you can see why he was a first-round pick.
Defensively, they won’t skip a beat with him in the game in the postseason. He slides his feet so well and has excellent instincts. On more than one play in this one he cheated off his man to help, but they were smart plays, not careless chances. Considering the lack of defensive options this team has had on the perimeter all season, you could do much worse than Smith.
There’s something there offensively as well. He’s raw for sure, but with his elite athleticism, he showed off a little slashing ability in this one. He went 2 of 5 from three and has shown that you can’t just leave him wide open.
This two-handed dunk on the baseline was nice.
up UP AND AWAY— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 11, 2019
Zhaire Smiths gets into the air to jam for two! pic.twitter.com/BNK2ORnlWs
He gets off the ground so quickly. There is a dunk contest in this kid’s future. He recorded 17 points on 7 of 13 shooting with five assists and four rebounds.
• If Brett Brown chooses not to use Smith because of the rookie’s inexperience, Jonathon Simmons has to be the guy that fills in for Ennis. Granted the last two games haven’t been against the stiffest of competition, but Simmons has actually looked good. He’s always been solid defensively and he hit a pair of threes in the first half. He has playoff experience and success on his resume. Simmons had a game-high 20 points (8 of 14), seven rebounds and five assists.
It’s puzzling that Brown mentioned Furkan Korkmaz was even a possibility to get postseason minutes. He’s a liability on defense and his offense just hasn't translated at the NBA level. He was 1 for 4 from three in this one, including one awful miss.
• In the ultimate matchup of grit, McConnell squared off against former Villanova star Ryan Arcidiacono. It was the most Spider-Man meme matchup ever. McConnell got the better of it, pouring in 18 points on 9 of 10 shooting with six assists. He just proved to be far too quick for Arcidiacono, getting to his spot on the floor in the midrange and not missing.
• Who doesn’t love seeing seven-footers bombing threes? Boban Marjanovic hit a pair for the first multi-three game of his career. He made his first career three back on March 23, and he hit another five days later in Atlanta. He doubled his career output in this one.
We also got to see nine-year veteran Greg Monroe connect on his first career three. Both backup bigs were strong on Wednesday. Marjanovic finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two blocks while Monroe had 14 points and six rebounds.
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