By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Philadelphia 119, Atlanta 109 – Box Score
For three quarters Wednesday night against Atlanta, the Sixers played down to their competition. First off, let me say how cool it is that the Sixers could play down to anybody after years of trotting out D-league-caliber lineups. Now, they’re much more talented than many of the teams they face, definitely including the rebuilding Hawks. So when they finally turned things up after entering the fourth and final period tied at 93, it sure was fun to watch.
Over 5 minutes had passed in the fourth before Atlanta scored a point, something that can happen for a team overly reliant on Dennis Schroeder for much of its offense. That lack of production simply wasn’t going to cut it with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid stepping up their games. That duo pressed the NOS button on their personal games, scoring or assisting on 24 of the team’s 26 points in the fourth quarter.
Their final lines were like something out of a Hinkie Truther fan faction. Joel Embiid recorded 21 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. With all those gaudy numbers though, the most important number was 30 minutes played. That’s right, Mr. Minutes Limit himself played 30 minutes of NBA basketball in near succession. With him out there for the majority of games now, it dramatically raises the ceiling of what this Sixers team is capable of this season.
Then, there’s Ben Simmons, who finished one assist shy of his second-career triple-double, tallying 19 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists, and 2 steals. Oh, and he harnessed his inner chi and floated the final few feet to the basket for one of the best dunks you’ll see this season.
Ben with the ❗️pic.twitter.com/WO7CJ4sAIF
— Michael K-B (@therealmikekb) November 2, 2017
As well as he’s been playing, the fact that Simmons even has these untapped gears is absolutely ridiculous. He’s still just 21 years old and will only keep getting stronger and learning what he’s capable of on an NBA court. Watch out league.
As for the rest of the team, Robert Covington kept the Sixers in the game early with hot shooting; he ended the evening 6-11 from three for a team-high 22 points. He’s just a couple weeks away from his big payday via an extension. TJ McConnell continued to cement his role as a major part of the rotation with 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists in 26 minutes off the bench. He’s making speculation that there might not be a place for him with Simmons playing point guard look pretty silly.
The Sixers have won 4 of their last 5 games, with the lone defeat the buzzer-beater at the hand of the Rockets. Now, 4-4 on the season, Philadelphia is at .500 since November of 2013. Something tells me they won’t be below that mark very often going forward. Next up are the Pacers Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center.