OKLAHOMA CITY — Wow, is it Friday already?
Talk about quick week. Maybe not, though, for the 76ers, who are coming off a humbling loss to the Orlando Magic.
We will find soon if and when they can get things back on track and start playing like a NBA title contender. Their first opportunity will come tonight when they face the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
One would expect the Sixers (7-4) to prevail. The Thunder (4-7) have lost two straight and three of their last four games.
But didn’t people think the same thing before Philly lost, 112-97, Wednesday in Orlando? The Magic (4-7) entered that game having lost five of their last six. So beating OKC will be far from a guarantee for a Sixers squad that has lost four of its last six.
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How much stock should we put into the Sixers’ 5-0 start this season? At the time, the belief was that they would be tested by mostly playoff-caliber teams from the start.
But as it turned out, most of the Sixers’ victories came against struggling teams.
They do have a season-opening statement victory over the Boston Celtics, who have the NBA’s best record at 9-1. The Sixers also soundly defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are 7-4. However, their other three victories during their winning streak came against squads — the Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks and Portland Trail Blazers — with a combined 12-23 mark. The Pistons and Blazers have 4-8 records, while the Hawks are 4-7.
And the Sixers had to work to beat those three squads.
They battled back from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit to take a 117-111 victory over the Pistons on Oct. 26 at Little Caesars Arena. Two nights later, Joel Embiid hit a pair of foul shots with 5.3 seconds left for the Sixers to escape with a 105-103 win against the Hawks at State Farm Arena. And on Nov. 2, Furkan Korkmaz’s corner three-pointer with .4 second left gave the Sixers a 129-128 victory over the Blazers at the Moda Center. The Sixers had to battle back from a 21-point deficit in that game.
The Sixers’ two victories since that streak haven’t exactly come super powers, either. They beat the Charlotte Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers, teams with 4-7 records. And the Sixers held on to beat the Cavs, 98-97, on Tuesday thanks in large part to Kevin Love’s missing a three-pointer with 3.8 seconds left.
So one could argue the Sixers are fortunate to have seven wins.
- Sixers coach Brett Brown wants slumping forward Tobias Harris to keep shooting. The underachieving Sixers need Harris to keep being aggressive, partly because their championship aspiration could depend on him.
- Brown: “It’s going to take past Christmas” for the Sixers to find their rhythm.The Sixers have failed to score at least 17 points in the fourth quarter of three of their last four games.
- Sixers-Magic best/worst: Tobias Harris’, and the team’s, three-point shooting woes. Harris has missed 23 consecutive three-pointers over the last six games.
- Sixers fall to Magic on a night Joel Embiid sits. Philly has lost four of its last six games after starting the season 5-0.
- Markelle Fultz, now the Orlando Magic point guard, back to having fun. The former Sixer is averaging 9.5 points and 3.1 assists.
Markelle Fultz might never live up to the hype that comes with being the first overall pick of the 2017 draft. But that’s OK.
It was just good to see the former Sixer back to having fun and actually competing in an NBA game. Fultz had 8 points on 2-for-6 shooting in Wednesday’s 112-97 victory over Sixers at Amway Center. He missed both of his three-point attempts, dropping his season percentage from that distance to 16.7. Yet, the 21-year-old was back to having fun, something he rarely experienced on the court as a Sixer.
By now, we all know about his shooting woes with the Sixers. He played in only 33 games during his first two seasons in the NBA. His tenure in Philadelphia was a circus.
But you have to be happy for Fultz, getting some type of normalcy back again.
Tonight: Sixers at Oklahoma City Thunder, 8 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Sunday: Sixers at Cavaliers, 3 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Wednesday: New York Knicks at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Nov. 22: San Antonio Spurs at Sixers, 8 p.m. NBC Sports Philadelphia and ESPN
Nov. 23: Miami Heat at Sixers, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Question: Why does Harris seem to have better stats when he’s not playing with Embiid? — @imanjones123 on Twitter.
Answer: What’s up, Imanjones123? #H2P Thanks for the question, man. Harris’ statistics have taken a hit while playing with Embiid since the forward was acquired in a trade from the Los Angeles Clippers in February.
A lot of it has to do with taking a different role when playing alongside the two-time All-Star center. The Sixers want to run everything through Embiid when he’s on the floor. As a result, Harris takes a lesser role in the offense. However, he becomes more aggressive when Embiid doesn’t play, knowing that he has to provide more of the offensive load.