*Note* I will not discuss the atrocity that was Markelle Fultz’s pump fake free throw attempt.
After dropping an overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night, the 76ers rebounded quite nicely against the Miami Heat on Monday. With a shortened rotation due to the Saturday transaction consisting of Robert Covington and Dario Saric for Jimmy Butler, early MVP candidate Joel Embiid and company defeated Miami 124-114. Jimmy Butler will join the team during their Wednesday night matchup against the Orlando Magic for our first look at our new toy.
Embiid was the game-high scorer with 35 points (8/15 FG, 3/4 3PT, 16/20 FT), 18 rebounds, and 3 assists. He constantly put pressure on the Heat big men on the low block, drilled his pull-up and fadeaway jumpers at the elbow, and continues to efficiently knock down threes. The Heat big men trio of Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo, and Kelly Olynyk combined for 13 fouls en route to Joel’s 20 free throw attempts. Play-by-play announcer Marc Zumoff mentioned on the post-game show that this was Joel’s 9th game with 30 points and 10 rebounds in 15 games. The next closest in that category has just three such games and the most in a team’s first 15 games since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did so in the 1971-72 season. However, my current leader in the MVP race, JoJo, was not alone in this game.
JJ Redick continues to carry a large portion of the scoring load on this team as he moves in to the starting lineup. Against the Heat, Redick dropped 25 points on 11/20 shooting and 3/9 from three. Second-year wing Furkan Korkmaz poured in a career-high 16 points on 5/9 shooting and 3/6 from three in 22 minutes. The 76ers front office declined Korkmaz’s team option two weeks ago and the Turkey native is looking to make Elton Brand and Brett Brown regret that decision. With both Saric and Covington out of the picture, Brown may have to rely on Korkmaz giving quality rotational minutes at both forward positions and looks like the top forward option off the bench.
Other stat lines:
Ben Simmons: 13 points (5/7), 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal
Mike Muscala: 13 points (3/11 FG, 3/10 3PT), 8 rebounds
Landry Shamet: 10 points (3/5 FG, 2/4 3PT)
The Sixers take on the Orlando Magic Wednesday night at the Amway Center in Jimmy Butler’s Philadelphia debut. With Butler joining the starting lineup, I expect the first unit to look like this:
PG: Ben Simmons
SG: JJ Redick
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Wilson Chandler
C: Joel Embiid
This will also be Wilson Chandler’s first game of the season without a minutes restriction and throughout his career has been a reliable 3-and-D combo forward. This lineup has the make-up to be even better than last year’s lineup of Simmons-Redick-RoCo-Saric-Embiid. JJ has played even better than last season. Butler is a top-notch two-way player and top-15 player in the NBA. Chandler is a defensive upgrade over The Homie and is also a reliable perimeter shooter.
With Butler in the mix, Markelle Fultz will be looked upon to lead the Sixers’ second unit where he will get every chance to be “the man”. Mike Muscala is the obvious choice as the top big man off the bench as Amir Johnson has seen a recent decrease in minutes over the past few games. Landry Shamet and Furkan Korkmaz, in addition to Muscala, will provide valuable shooting and spacing alongside Fultz off the bench. Ilyasova and Belinelli who?
The 76ers now have a legitimate Big Three and will once again look like the top-three team that they were last season and will be inching closer to the Eastern Conference favorites alongside the Toronto Raptors with the Celtics struggling in the early season. Jimmy Butler, welcome to Philly and as always, Trust the Process.
University of South Carolina ’21