The 76ers have entered the All-Star break with some momentum, three wins in a row at home, the most impressive being their 110-103 victory Tuesday night over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Now everybody except All-Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will have off for a week before the Sixers return to practice next Wednesday to prepare for their Feb. 20 home game against the Brooklyn Nets.
The Sixers (34-21) have completed two-thirds of their schedule and the final third will be all about preparing for the postseason.
Nothing will matter more to the Sixers than seeing their two All-Stars jell, especially the way they did Tuesday when they combined for 52 points, 21 rebounds and 12 assists against a viable NBA title contender.
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When Embiid gets the ball down in the blocks, he is so strong and quick that he becomes almost impossible to defend. There has been a lot of talk about him and Simmons not being able to mesh because the Sixers play a faster-paced game when Embiid is out, which suits Simmons’ style better, and more of a half-court game when Embiid is on the court.
Yet lately, Simmons has been playing more down low, posting up more. And when he isn’t posting up, he is still getting to the basket, whether in transition or a half-court set.
Simmons’ reluctance to shoot has been well documented. Tuesday, for instance, teammate Tobias Harris attempted six three-point shots, as many as Simmons has attempted all season. Still, Simmons is scoring down low at an incredible pace, more than twice as much as Embiid.
Embiid this season has connected on 290 of 623 shots from the field (46.6%) and 51 of152 from three-point range (33.6%). Here is where Embiid’s shots are attempted and made, courtesy of NBA.com:
For Embiid, 30.5% of his shots come from less than 5 feet.
Simmons this season is shooting 359-for-615 (58.4%) and 2-for-6 from beyond the arc (33%). Here is where Simmons’ shots are attempted and made:
Simmons has taken 77.8% of his shots from less than five feet. Whether this kind of percentage will be effective in the playoffs, when teams will play off Simmons more and dare him to shoot, remains to be seen.
During a timeout in Tuesday’s game, Sixers Hall of Famer Julius Erving was introduced to the crowd and received much applause. That brings to mind an anniversary that will occur Thursday.
On Feb. 13, 1977, Erving played in his first NBA All-Star Game. Thursday will mark the 43rd anniversary of the game, which was played at Milwaukee Arena. Erving was voted the game’s MVP after a 30-point, 12-rebound performance, despite his East team’s 125-124 defeat.
In 30 minutes, he shot 12-for-20 from the field, hit all six of his foul shots, and added three assists and four steals. The NBA had yet to adopt the three-point field goal at that point. Erving also blocked a shot.
Erving had played in five ABA all-star games, and that was his first of 11 All-Star appearances with the Sixers.
The Sixers had three of the five starters for the East, with Doug Collins and George McGinnis joining Erving. The other starters were Bob McAdoo of the Knicks and “Pistol” Pete Maravich of the New Orleans Jazz.
Feb. 20: Brooklyn Nets at Sixers, 8 p.m., TNT
Feb 22: Sixers at Milwaukee Bucks, 8:30 p.m., ABC
Feb. 24: Atlanta Hawks at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBA TV
Feb. 26: Sixers at Cleveland Cavaliers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Feb. 27: New York Knicks at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Question: How are Brett Brown and the team planning to improve road game results? What do they believe has caused this result to date? Thank you. — J Mac (@jess70319442) on Twitter
Answer: Thanks for the question, and it’s not one with a simple solution. While the Sixers are an NBA-best 25-2 at home, they are 9-19 on the road. They average 111.5 points at home and 105.5 on the road. They allow 101.8 points per game at home and 110.5 on the road. We can give you more stats, but you get the picture.
Is it as simple as feeding off the crowd? I think that is a big part of it. Confidence is a big thing, and the Sixers don’t have it on the road, especially down the stretch of games. They are 3-7 in road games decided by five points or fewer.