Kyrie Irving

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons earn spots in top 15 for most popular NBA jerseys

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Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons earn spots in top 15 for most popular NBA jerseys

When you take a look at the current NBA standings, the Sixers are 3rd in the division and 6th in the east — and for some reason, it's being treated like it's the end of the world — even though there's still half a season left.

It's mind boggling.

Anyway, a new standing was released today, one that ranks the two most notable players for the Sixers in the top 15 of the league when it comes to the most popular NBA jerseys.

Out of 450 athletes? It's quite an impressive feat.

Both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons cracked the list with Embiid coming in at 9th overall and Simmons 11th. Their names are among the most notable and elite in the game — including LeBron James, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and more.

The results are based on NBAStore.com sales from Oct. 2019 through Dec. 2019.

Top 15 Most Popular NBA Jerseys:
1. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
3. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
4. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
5. James Harden, Houston Rockets
6. Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks
7. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
8. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
9. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
10. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
11. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
12. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
13. Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets
14. Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics
15. Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

In addition, the Sixers are also 3rd in the league when it comes to the most popular team merchandise.

Top 10 Most Popular Team Merchandise:
1. Los Angeles Lakers
2. Boston Celtics
3. Philadelphia 76ers
4. Toronto Raptors
5. Milwaukee Bucks
6. Golden State Warriors
7. Houston Rockets
8. Chicago Bulls
9. Miami Heat
10. Brooklyn Nets

Not too shabby.

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More early aggression from Ben Simmons, clutch shotmaking from Tobias Harris lift Sixers to win over Nets

More early aggression from Ben Simmons, clutch shotmaking from Tobias Harris lift Sixers to win over Nets

BOX SCORE 

On the road, the Sixers have lost six games in a row. At Wells Fargo Center, they’re still tough to beat.

They topped the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night, 117-106, to move to 19-2 at home, 26-16 overall.

They’ll play the Chicago Bulls on Friday (7 p.m./NBCSP).

Here are observations on the win:

Simmons attacks early

Ben Simmons scored six of the Sixers’ first nine points in Dallas on Saturday and eight of their first 17 in Indiana on Monday.

“I thought in the first half [Monday] there was a dominant, tank mentality where he was going to dunk on anybody that was in front of him,” Brett Brown said pregame of Simmons.

That early aggression is encouraging and Simmons maintained it Wednesday, scoring 10 of his team’s opening 18. It helped that the Sixers forced five early Nets turnovers and played fast when possible. 

As they had in their first meeting, Brooklyn played off Simmons to an extreme degree, and the Sixers often countered by calling “12,” with a wing running up from the baseline to either give Simmons a ball screen or receive a handoff. The action had mixed results, but Simmons was generally very good at powering through contact and quickly eating up the open space the Nets gave him. 

In the fourth quarter, Furkan Korkmaz (15 points) made a three go-ahead three when, as the Nets prepared for a Simmons drive off “12,” the Australian point guarded handed it to his open teammate.

Simmons finished with 20 points, 15 of which came before halftime, and 11 assists. 

Harris comes through in the clutch

The Sixers received contrasting offensive contributions from their starters outside of Simmons. 

Tobias Harris was decisive and sharp, scoring a game-high 34 points on 20 shots. 

He was also massive late. Harris made a contested three from the left wing to put the Sixers up 109-104.

He then scored on the Sixers’ next two possessions, including a floater that gave the Sixers a nine-point lead and basically sealed the game. 

Al Horford struggled for most of the night, missing a heap of open looks on his way to a 4-for-14 shooting performance.

Josh Richardson had 15 points (5 for 12 shooting).

Holding down Irving 

The Sixers (and Richardson in particular) guarded Nets star Kyrie Irving very well, holding him to 14 points on 6 for 21 shooting.

However, Spencer Dinwiddie (26 points) and Jarrett Allen (17 points, 7 of 8 shooting) did have success in the pick-and-roll.

Doubling down 

Brown said pregame that Sixers would “double down” on wanting to increase their volume of three-point attempts, even after hitting only 15 of 70 threes (21.4) over their last two games.

The Sixers shot 11 for 30 from three vs. the Nets, a significant improvement in efficiency. 

‘I want to try to grow Matisse’ 

Matisse Thybulle started Wednesday, taking Mike Scott’s place. Scott had gone 3 of 14 from three-point range over his last three starts.

It was easy to see the logic in that decision, and Thybulle had several bright moments, including a rejection of a Joe Harris jumper in the first quarter followed by a layup on the resulting fast break. In the second quarter, he had one of his trademark “rearview” blocks on Irving, then sprinted down the floor, found his spot in the left corner and sunk a three. 

Other rotation decisions were more interesting. James Ennis was the fifth bench player to check in for the Sixers, but he played 15 minutes — in part because of Thybulle picking up his fourth foul early in the third —  and posted six points and five rebounds. He hadn’t played against Indiana, which Brown said before the game was primarily about a desire to develop the rookie Thybulle.

“I want to try to grow Matisse,” he said. “And at some point, you say, ‘Am I going to play 10 or nine?’ The lion’s share of some of James’ minutes were shifted over to Matisse. I don’t believe it’s something that you’re going to see a steady diet of. I wanted to try it, I did. Probably what you should hear most clearly is I want to try to grow Matisse more.”

Ennis doesn’t have a standout skill besides perhaps his offensive rebounding, but he’s been a dependable player for the Sixers, someone they can get decent playing time from in most situations. With the current roster, he should certainly be a stable part of the rotation.  

Raul Neto got the backup point guard minutes over Trey Burke, as he had in the second half vs. the Pacers, and recorded four points in seven minutes.

Norvel Pelle served as the team’s backup center until the Sixers briefly went with a Harris-Scott frontcourt late in the third quarter against an ultra-small Brooklyn lineup.

The NBA days left on Pelle’s two-way deal are nearly up and the Sixers have elected not to convert him to an NBA contract at the moment because they want to preserve flexibility ahead of the Feb. 6 trade deadline (see story).

Embiid starts working his way back 

Joel Embiid, after undergoing surgery Friday in New York for a torn ligament in his left hand, was back in Philadelphia and went through pregame conditioning drills, as well as doing form shooting with one hand.

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Sixers vs. Nets: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers vs. Nets: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

The Sixers (25-16) last lost at the Wells Fargo Center on Dec. 20. Since then, they’ve gone 1-6 on the road.

Wednesday night, they’re home to face the 18-21 Brooklyn Nets.

Here are the essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center 
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Irving sharp since his return 

Kyrie Irving is back after missing 26 games because of a right shoulder injury, and he’s totaled 53 points on 22 for 30 shooting (73.3 percent) and 15 assists in the two games since his return.

Without Irving, the Nets beat the Sixers by 20 points on Dec. 15 in Brooklyn, led by Spencer Dinwiddie’s 24 points. Joel Embiid was out that game because of an upper respiratory infection. He’s now sidelined after undergoing surgery Friday for a torn ligament in his left hand.

A strategic note to watch from that last meeting is Brooklyn played off Ben Simmons to an extreme, sometimes guarding him below the foul line while he was behind the arc. Simmons finished with 20 points, five rebounds and three assists. 

Halfway there 

Below are the Sixers’ records from the first 41 games over the past four seasons:

2016-17: 15-26
2017-18: 21-20
2018-19: 27-14
2019-20: 25-16

They of course had a 16-game winning streak to end the 2017-18 season, which enabled them to earn 52 wins and the No. 3 seed in the East. The February additions of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova were key in that run.

While this year’s team begins the second half with a better record than the 2017-18 team, it’s looking more and more like they’ll need that kind of impactful external help. They’re sixth in the Eastern Conference, 10.5 games behind the Bucks and 3.5 games behind the No. 2 seed Celtics. 

It’s hard to win like that … 

In their losses to the Mavs and Pacers, the Sixers shot 15 of 70 (21.4 percent) from three-point range. While they actually led both games by nine at halftime, it’s very difficult to win in the modern NBA with shooting performances that abysmal.

The Sixers also put themselves in a difficult spot by allowing Indiana and Dallas to attempt a combined 58 foul shots and taking just 29. They’re 24th this season in free throw attempts per game (21.6) and 20th in foul shots conceded (24.2). 

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