We knew Joel Embiid would be out longer than a few games. In a way, both Simmons and Embiid being out for some time gives Sixers fans and management a glimpse of what this team looks like without its two brightest stars and allows us all to measure the value of Simmons and Embiid over their replacements.
Whether you think it’s accurate over a small sample is relevant, but it’s really the best and only way to evaluate it, so there isn’t much of a choice on our end. From what we’ve seen over the past few games, the Sixers still have a decent team.
Without Simmons and Embiid, this team still looks like a 25 to 35-win team. When Embiid went down and with Simmons already out, the Sixers went three straight games with nine or less turnovers. That’s the first time it’s happened all season. Obviously, the ceiling isn’t nearly as high as it can be with Simmons and Embiid on the floor, but this 2-3 stretch without their two best players has gone better than most expected.
We’ll see if the Sixers can get it done this week with Embiid possibly out at least one more game.
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76ers vs Clippers March 1
This game was designed to be a blowout. The Clippers were playing at full-strength and the Sixers were down their two best players. What’s wild about it was, the Clippers were 13.5-point favorites, shot extremely well (59% from the field and 54% from three) and somehow, the Sixers only lost by six. Shake Milton was 14-20 and 7-9 from three. We’ve seen this kind of performance before from Milton in the G-League but to see him go off like this is really encouraging for the Sixers while they’re so shorthanded.
The Sixers shot 51% from the field and went 21-43 from three and still lost. That’s going to happen when you’re missing Simmons and Embiid. Without them, the Sixers are going to give up some points against good offensive teams like the Clippers. At the end of the day, it was still a tremendous offensive performance by the Sixers and an impressive performance, all things considered.
76ers vs Lakers March 3
On Tuesday, the Sixers returned to the Staples Center in the second game of their four-game west coast road trip. The Sixers got off to a good start and led by as many as 13 in the second quarter, before a strong push by the Lakers before the half put the Lakers in the lead for good.
As the third quarter began, the Lakers picked up right where they left off, extending the lead to 21 early in the third quarter. At that point, the Sixers managed to shrink the lead a bit, but it was far too late. The Lakers won this game in the paint. Though the Lakers didn’t own the boards like everyone expected they would (+1), they were +28 in the paint in this game, led by Anthony Davis and his 37 points.
The Sixers ended their streak of sub-nine turnover games with 15 turnovers in the game. As you may have guessed, a different Sixer led the team in scoring again as Glenn Robinson logged 25 points on 10-15 shooting. Following the loss to the Lakers, the Sixers had less than 48 hours to get ready for the third leg of their west coast road trip in Sacramento.
76ers vs Kings March 5
From the tip until the final whistle, the Sixers played complete basketball. By halftime, the Sixers controlled the game and led by ten. At one point in the third, the lead shrunk to as little as six before Raul Neto hit back to back threes and Alec Burks followed with a third. By the five-minute mark in the fourth, the Kings had shrunk the Sixers lead to six again.
From there, the Sixers were efficient down the line, pushing the lead back and pulling away with ease. Philadelphia forced 18 turnovers and won the rebounding battle by six. They played to their strengths. Without Embiid and Simmons, that means ball movement and taking what the defense gives them. Even though the Sixers aren’t one of the better shooting teams in the NBA, they’ve been surprisingly hot since the absence of their top two.
With a lack of an interior presence in the game, Tobias Harris took on the role of primary rebounder, gathering 14 rebounds. He also stepped up to carry the offense, going 11-22 from the field, 4-6 from three, and tallying 28 points. Shake Milton and Al Horford combined to go 15-28 from the field, 5-11 from deep, and 38 total points.
76ers vs Warriors March 7
The Sixers finished off their four-game west-coast road trip with a tough loss to the Warriors. The Sixers didn’t have an awful game offensively, but their defensive woes without their big two finally came to a head Saturday night. Without Steph Curry, the Warriors are practically a G-League team. Damion Lee (24 points), Eric Paschall (23 points), and Mychal Mulder (18 points) led the Warriors to an unexpected home victory.
Philadelphia’s defensive effort was awful. Furkan Korkmaz was pretty bad on offense, going 1-5 with three points and committing three turnovers. It seems like the Sixers game plan was to just take it easy and turn it on late if need be. The Sixers had an eight-point lead to start the fourth and it seemed to be going to plan, but the Warriors just made shots when it mattered down the stretch. The loss was a tough way to end an otherwise decent road trip. Next up for the Sixers is a home game against the Pistons on Wednesday.
Are the Sixers a good bet for the East title?
For a good portion of the season, the Sixers were the second or third favorites to win the East, according to odds from PlaySugarHouse and BetRivers. Now, they’re the fifth and are +900 to win the East title. It’s really not as bad as we would expect.
For much of the year, the Sixers were inflated from the fact they looked like the second-best team in the East last postseason. When the Raptors lost Kawhi, it shifted the Sixers and Bucks to the default one and two.
Once the Raptors went on their run and haven’t slowed down, they jumped into the fray and Jayson Tatum has been dragging the Celtics into the conversation as well. As a result, combined with the inconsistency we’ve seen all season from the Sixers, they’ve tumbled down to the fifth favorite. If you believe the idea that the Sixers are so versatile, it’s going to be hard to prepare for them, this bet is for you.