A look at the last week of 76ers basketball and the other NBA contenders.
Are we still in “The Process”? After a 1-2 week this past week, the Philadelphia 76ers are looking more like the filming process of Avatar. Going into last season, it was all about Sam Hinke’s “Process” and how deliberately tanking for three years was part of the plan to build a real championship contender. Through 13 games, this production is beginning to look more like Waterworld than Avatar and if I’m a 76ers fan, I’m asking myself, “Should we want our money back”?
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Magic vs 76ers – Nov 13
With Joel Embid taking the game off against the Magic, the 76ers were essentially planning on an easy matchup against the 3-7 Orlando Magic. After all, they were coming off a back-to-back and the Magic aren’t the kind of team you worry too much about — or so we were told. Josh Richardson was the leading scorer for the 76ers, which only further proves the theory that this team is still in “The Process”. The 76ers had 15 turnovers in the game, which was two more than the Magic.
The 76ers also lost the rebounding battle by one. This loss ultimately came down to two things. One, the absence of Joel Embid was massive as Vucevic dominated offensively and on the boards. Embid would’ve been able to stymie Vucevic had he gotten the opportunity. Instead, Gordon and Vucevic dominated the boards and a sour shooting night from the 76ers was their undoing. The second major issue for the 76ers was the Magic’s gameplan. The Magic allowed lanes for Simmons and others to move freely towards the basket, but they played a pesky defensive style, keeping the 76ers off the free-throw line in the process. The 76ers struggled with the pace and ball movement of Orlando’s athletic team, allowing them to get to the line 34 times to the 76ers 13.
Thunder vs 76ers – Nov 15
In a game where Chris Paul led the Thunder in rebounds (8) and the 76ers led in rebounding, three-pointers and three-point percentage, the Thunder won by eight points in overtime. 76ers fans are now officially in full-on, early-season panic mode. For most of the game, Philly held control and tempo, ceding ground to the occasional Danilo Gallinari or Terrance Ferguson transition three. It was 94-85 with seven minutes to go, but the 76ers gave Shai Gilgeous-Alexander a few too many easy drives off switches, as well as some interior, mini-fadeaways from Chris Paul.
To be fair, the Thunder made some clutch shots down the stretch and made a nice, clean and efficient run in overtime to pull out the win. If you’re a 76ers fan and you’re just checking the box score, you’re probably going to be much more distraught than those who watched the game. Chalk this one up to a clutch shooting night and a failure by the 76ers to dominate inside, where they had very favorable matchups.
Cavaliers vs 76ers – Nov 17
Sunday night’s game against the Cavs was a “get right” game for the 76ers. Even if you weren’t watching the game — I don’t blame you as neither was most of the league — but everyone was watching the game cast out of the corner of their eye to see if the wheels had fully come off the wagon for Philly. Instead, the Philly came out hard, guns blazing. They were out to silence the noise and cruised to an easy victory. The 76ers limited the Cavs to just 37% from the field and 24% from three. Embid only had to play 23 minutes and the 76ers we able to end their brief slide.
Regardless of how good you think the 76ers actually are, this is a different team from last season. It’s time to relax and enjoy watching the new pieces in play as this team continues to search for their identity. It’s early in the season. Don’t lose sight of that.
Around the rest of the league, here is my power 5 of frontrunners for the title with betting lines for the NBA Championship through BetRivers PA.
5. Clippers 9-5 (+300 at BetRivers)
The Clippers are sort of in the same boat as the 76ers. They’re just now working Paul George into the rotation. Kawhi Leonhard is taking quite a bit of playing time off for rest. The rest of the team is deep, but they’re still getting their chemistry. They’re 2-1 since the return of Paul George, but their last two games have been sound, despite Leonhard sitting this past game against the Thunder. They blasted the Hawks on Saturday by 49 and it was a true demonstration of the power of this roster at full strength. They should become the frontrunner, barring injury luck, by the end of the season.
4. Bucks 10-3 (+550)
The Bucks have only lost to the Heat, Jazz, and Celtics. They beat the Clippers without Kawhi and Paul George, barely. They haven’t been incredible, but they’ve been solid. Donte DiVincenzo has been a pleasant surprise this season so far. He’s been much more productive the past two games and is slowly getting more minutes each game. DiVincenzo has been playing well in Khris Middleton’s absence — 3 weeks with a thigh contusion suffered vs Thunder. With George Hill and Eric Bledsoe, this team has real depth at the guard position. Brook Lopez is still playing efficiently down low and up top from deep, so this team has a real chance to go deep into the playoffs once again.
3. Rockets 11-3 (+800)
The Rockets have been without Chris Paul but have added Russell Westbrook. It’s been a little rocky early but the Rockets appear to be figuring things out. It’s not shocking to be playing well with two recent MVPs on one roster. The interesting part is not that Westbrook takes away from the high-efficiency offensive model the Rockets operate under, but he adds to it with his ability to get to the basket, rebound, and pass. He’s playing well as a decoy and his ability to penetrate is opening up the offense. Though he’s only shooting 22% from three, Westbrook makes this team even more dangerous in transition and the Rockets should continue to run teams off the court as they develop even better chemistry as the season carries on.
2. Celtics 11-2 (+2200)
The Celtics are a surprising 11-2, though they were just beaten by a Sacramento Kings team missing D-Aaron Fox. The Celtics were really playing well with a core of Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, and Jaylen Brown. The Celtics are another team dealing with a plethora of weapons on offense, but Kemba Walker appears to be fitting nicely within their system. Gordon Hayward is going to miss some time with injury but Boston has set themselves up yet again to compete for the Eastern Conference title.
1. Lakers 12-2 (+350)
The Lakers right now are pretty healthy and the combo of Lebron James and Anthony Davis has been nearly unstoppable. Their biggest issue going forward will be their depth and health, but if the Lakers can keep up what they have going right now, they will be the favorite or second favorite to hoist another championship banner this season (along with the Clippers).