You could make some fun drinking games out of watching the 76ers play. Every game seems somewhat similar in the box score, but the way each game transpires is different every time. It’s like snowflakes. No two snowflakes are the same, even though they appear the same from a distance. Imagine a drinking game where you take a drink every time the 76ers turnover the ball, get a turnover on defense, or get a block? It would be a fun one, for sure.
Now, we can add a Ben Simmons three point attempt to it! Ben Simmons made his first NBA three pointer last week. He’s now 1/1 on the season and 1/18 in his career, so a “finish your drink” rule could easily be implemented now on each Ben Simmons three-point attempt. The Sixers rolled to a 3-0 record last week, so it’s possible this team is turning the corner we all expected would happen earlier in the season. Let’s take a look back at this past week, as well as some other teams on the rise.
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Knicks vs 76ers Nov 20
Despite shooting worse on nearly every metric, the 76ers had 30 assists, committed just 14 fouls, and turned the ball over just 10 times in the game, winning narrowly in a game highlighted by Ben Simmons’ first three pointer of the season. The 76ers trailed by as much as 17 in the third quarter, but clutch possessions and a barrage of threes in the fourth quarter lifted them to victory on a night they didn’t shoot especially well.
Sure, it’s cool Ben Simmons made a three. That’s fine and all, but until he’s attempting more than four a game and shooting 30% from deep, the spacing will continue to be an issue with both Simmons and Embid on the floor. Since he made that three, Simmons hasn’t attempted another, so don’t get too excited. Regardless, a win is still a win and the 76ers played a fundamentally sound game and that’s how they were able to overcome an off-shooting night.
Spurs vs 76ers Nov 22
The 76ers played another solid game with good ball movement. They outshot the Spurs from the floor and from three and dominated the boards with a 51 to 32 advantage. This game only had 44 three pointers attempted and was dictated largely inside and from the mid-range. It was a pretty boring game to watch and the 76ers slipped back into their high-turnover ways by giving up the ball over 15 times. Maybe it’s time we just expect them to have a lot of turnovers.
When teams move the ball around at the rate the 76ers do, it’s natural to expect more turnovers. However, they do need to clean up a lot of it, because they can’t afford to lose possessions in games where the rebounding battle is close. They need to get to a point where they can form a better offensive identity and rely on quality possessions and good defense. Harris, Korkmaz, and Ennis combined to go 10/16 from three, while the rest of the team went a combined 0/10.
Heat vs 76ers Nov 17
It was a showdown between two of the top teams in the East, but you wouldn’t know it if you just watched the game and ignored their records. Everything came together for the 76ers in this game. They were +3 on turnovers, +6 on rebounds, and +16 on assists. They also shot 48% from three and put this game out of reach early. Josh Richardson put up 32 against his former team and the 76ers cruised to a 27-point home victory.
This is the formula the Sixers need to roll through the regular season. It was a full display of defense, ball movement, and taking advantage of mismatches. If the Sixers can keep this up, they can become a real force in the East and get back to being one of the elite teams in the NBA.
This week in our look at the NBA, we thought we would switch gears and look at some teams that could surprise this season. These are the four teams who have an outside shot at making an unexpected run to the playoffs. These odds come via BetRivers):
1. Mavericks 11-5 -500 to make playoffs
The Mavericks biggest wins this season have been the Nuggets and most recently, the Rockets. Luca Doncic is an MVP candidate and the most exciting player in the league right now. Every game is must-see TV. Kristaps Porzingis has been playing into form, still supposedly hindered by his injury that put him out for 2018/2019. This team has a dynamic offense with a few shooters, floor spacers, and good size. As long as Dallas can stay healthy, I love their chances to get to the playoffs with a decent seed.
2. Suns 8-8 -118 to make playoffs
Devin Booker hasn’t been great lately, but make no mistake, he’s a certified superstar now. All season, Booker has been making clutch shots and plays, and it’s really erasing the notion that he’s just some guy who racks up empty stats. The Suns, this year, have been led by the trio of Booker, Oubre, and Saric. It’s been shockingly effective as the team has pulled off upsets over the 76ers and the Clippers.
They will be without DeAndre Ayton for another 9 games, but when he returns, this team will be a formidable obstacle for the big teams out West. It may be wiser to wait a few more weeks before you throw down on a Suns playoff futures bet, but if they keep winning shorthanded, these odds aren’t going to get any better. This team is beginning to look like a lock for the playoffs.
3. Kings 7-8 +140 to make playoffs
The Kings started the season 0-5 but have won 7 of their last 10 and look like the pre-season playoff candidate we expected they could be. The team is led by the guard trio of De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Buddy Hield. Though Fox has been out the past few weeks, he should return from injury in the next few weeks and when he does, this team should be able to continue to push towards the 7 or 8 seed in the West.
Over their past ten games, the Kings have beaten the Jazz and the Celtics and barely lost to the Lakers, missing Fox for the game. This team has the potential to run teams off the floor with their speed and athleticism.
4. Pelicans 6-9 +275 to make playoffs
Brandon Ingram is an offensive stud. He’s still very young and raw defensively, but the guy is putting on a clinic so far this year. His ceiling is very high, still, and I think when Zion returns in mid-December, they’ll compliment each other well on this offense. JJ Redick has been a nice addition for this offense as well, but the Pelicans really need Zion back for his defensive and rebounding abilities.
This team is giving up an insane amount of points per game and currently has a defensive rating of 114, third worst in the league. When Zion returns, they’ll need to figure things out quickly, but this team has a lot of potential because Zion is as NBA-ready as any rookie in the league.