By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 20, 2018
Philadelphia 108, Charlotte 94 – Box Score
No one would argue the Sixers are playing their best basketball at the moment. But right in the thick of the easiest part of their schedule, they keep doing just enough to pull out the necessary wins to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Tied at 88 with 6 minutes remaining in the game, Philadelphia pulled away with an 13-0 run that was emblematic of everything that went right for the Sixers on the evening. It featured hot outside shooting, including three straight threes from Robert Covington (18 points) and Marco Belinelli (21 points). Those two and Joel Embiid combined to shoot 13-24 from behind the arc on the game. As a team, the Sixers made 18 threes, tying a franchise record.
However, that run and Philadelphia’s win as a whole wouldn’t have been possible without the lone guy on the team who doesn’t shoot threes, Ben Simmons. During that pivotal run, Simmons scored or assisted on all 13 points during the run, unsurprisingly playing a pivotal role on a day where he recorded his third triple-double in his last four games.
The rookie point guard went off for 11 points 12 rebounds, 15 assists, 3 steals, and ZERO turnovers. It’s only the second time in league history a rookie has had 15 assists in a game without a turnover (Brevin Knight on 4/1/98 was the other). Simmons had previously alluded to being a bit mentally fatigued adjusting to the longer NBA season. Head coach Brett Brown joked after the game that he hopes his point guard is more mentally fatigued going forward.
While Simmons efficiently carved up the Hornets defense, Embiid was a larger-than-life presence in more ways than one (some of them bad). The big man tallied 25 points, 19 rebounds, tying his career-high against Brooklyn last week, and 4 blocks. Charlotte’s centers refused to come out to the arc and defend Embiid and he made them pay. Defensively, not only did he do a great job defending the rim, but he forced Dwight Howard into a couple offensive fouls. The Hornets center was in foul trouble for the majority of the game as a result.
However, Embiid also ended the game with 9 turnovers, the lone blemish for a Sixers team that only had 15 giveaways total. Only one of the turnovers was a bad traveling call on a quality jump stop, the majority were bad decisions, either dumb passes in traffic or examples of over-dribbling. Usually, the Sixers fall apart without Embiid on the court, but he actually had a -9 plus/minus in a game the team won by 14. I’m willing to bet that’s the first time this season we’ve seen that sort of disparity. It’s ridiculous that he still had a 25-19 line in a game that wasn’t close to his best effort.
Unfortunately, the Sixers didn’t gain any ground on the teams immediately above them in the East, as the Pacers and Cavaliers both also won Monday night. The good news is that the Sixers still have the Grizzlies and Magic up next, more opportunities to take care of business against the dregs of the league. It sure is good to be on the other end of these March basketball tankfests.