Welcome to Views from 116. In case you forgot, this column is a perspective from the stands for the fans. Let’s get to it.
Sixers vs. Raptors – Saturday, December 22, 2018
Yesterday, the 21-12 Sixers took on the 25-9 Raptors. The Sixers won 126-101, improving to 22-12 while the Raptors fell to 25-10.
I walked to meet up with RJ at the Spring Garden subway stop about an hour ahead of the 7:30pm tip. Lots of Raptors were set to be out of the lineup tonight, including Kawhi Leonard and Jonas Valanciunas, so we were hoping that the Sixers could take advantage of a short-handed roster and get a win at home against the current Eastern Conference leader.
We got down to the stadium about 15 minutes ahead of tip and ate some giant pizza from Lorenzo’s. But when we tried to make our way to our seats, we were stopped in the tunnel since the national anthem had already started. This didn’t make any sense since tip-off wasn’t set to occur until 7:30pm (it was only 7:15pm when we got stopped). We thought initially this was just a rehearsal (so as not to repeat what happened last time), but after warm-ups, the proceedings went directly to player introductions. If anyone knows why the anthem didn’t occur at its usual time, let me know! It’s still a mystery to me.
Freddie Mitchell rang the bell and got an unreasonably warm welcome. Good for him for still being able to live off of “4th & 26” but boy oh boy was he trash for an Eagles team that didn’t win the Super Bowl. Want to win again? Have the only Eagles Super Bowl MVP in history, Nick Foles, ring every bell in the city.
After the bell-ringing and introductions, Mike Muscala wished the crowd a happy holiday season and we we’re off…
While there was some speculation on whether Kyle Lowry would play or not tonight, he was certainly out there to start, which made me pretty nervous due to the Sixers’ inability to stop above-average guards this year. Also on the court for Toronto was Pascal Siakim, who has become the early-season leader in the clubhouse for Overrated Darling of #NBATwitter. Siakim finished the night with 26 points on 11-21 from the field, 0-6 from 3pt, 17 uncalled push-off fouls, and a plus/minus of -21. At least he’s “fun to watch.”
Other 1st quarter observations:
- Jonah Bolden had his best game of the year and came out strong on both ends of the floor in the 1st quarter. He was a total burst of energy right away and showed some ability to fill the Covington-sized hole in our help defense. He also had a ton of nice blocks. He was an early difference maker in a game that would turn into a blow-out and felt integral to the team’s success tonight.
- The Chik-Fil-A basketball challenge (layup-FT-3PT-half court) was back, and the fan participant did pretty well to start, hitting the layup, the foul shot, and the 3PT shot pretty quickly. However, this dude actually tried to shoot multiple set-shot jumpers from half court, never adjusting to a running start after many short air-balls. Alas, what started as promising turned disappointing.
- Joel Embiid was the #76ersShowdown dance cam option yet again. I’m beginning to think that the Sixers have stopped making new videos after Dario was traded and only have Joel and TJ left.
- At one point, Kyle Lowry got fouled and took about 2 minutes to shoot 2 FTs after walking up to half court, chatting with the ref, taking his time to get to the line, getting set, chatting with some players, baking a cake, having a cup of tea, shooting one free throw, making a long distance phone-call, lining up his next shot, thinking about it, preparing his tax return, and then finally shooting his second free throw. The Raptors are beginning to reach Celtics-level annoyance for me.
- JJ Redick hit a 1st quarter “buzzer beater” (ended up being rescinded). After the score correction, the Sixers were trailing 29-30 through 1 quarter of play.
Embiid owned this quarter for the Sixers and had 23 points by the end of the half, making a bunch of nice plays along the way. I thought he was headed to 40 tonight (ended up with 27 points in 31 minutes), and perhaps he could have gotten there had it been a closer game (I’m glad it wasn’t). He also got T’d up and wouldn’t be the only Sixer to do so tonight – both Butler and Simmons got technical fouls as well. The officiating crew tonight seemed to be in no mood to tolerate any arguing from players or coaches (Toronto’s coach Nick Nurse got T’d up at one point as well). I found this odd for a game where the teams competing weren’t heated with each other at all (and in a game that ended up being a blowout).
- There was a Simmons-Shamet-Butler-Muscala-Bolden lineup this quarter, which looked pretty good. Bolden was able to provide just enough defensively to support Simmons and Butler out on the perimeter. I would like to see more of this fast-paced lineup, which made me think about the 16 game win streak last year and how comfortable Simmons looked on the run with shooters.
- Between the 1st and 2nd quarter there was this very strange 2-v-2 tug of war between 4 elves, officiated by Franklin the Dog. When James Naismith explained to his wife Maude his vision of basketball, I’m not sure this is what he had in mind.
- The Big Head race took place this quarter just a few sections over from me. This the thing where three giant “big heads” of players (tonight, Embiid, Simmons, and Butler) are passed across rows/sections of fans. I actually forget who won because I was distracted by the creepy Betsy Ross and Ben Franklin mascots, so apologies there. As always, my $50 offer stands for anyone willing to take the giant head when it is passed to them and sprint out of the stadium. All I ask for is proof!
- The pop-a-shot contest also took place this quarter. The first kid tonight was pretty bad, only making 8 shots…but the second kid was even worse and somehow lost to that easy-to-beat score. Both were appropriately booed. Man, I love our fans.
- Jonah Bolden got a nice reaction of appreciative applause from the crowd when he headed to the bench near the end of the quarter. I was really happy to see that since he could probably use the encouragement after being brought up to the Sixers/sent back to the Blue Coats quite often this season. I really hope to see more of Jonah in the rotation in the coming weeks – he earned that tonight.
- The Sixers won the quarter 36-29 and went into halftime up 65-59.
The Sixers continued their solid play this quarter and held the Raptors to 20 points, despite some free gifts from the refs. There was no greater gift than the hilarious Ben Simmons technical foul, awarded since Ben sat down in a courtside seat in disappointment after a bad call. While I’m sure the letter of the law is something along the lines of “you can’t do that,” it was a pretty funny move on Ben’s part, and I would appreciate it if the NBA looked the other way in humorous situations such as this. The crowd was fed up with the referees by this point and sure let them know it with the timeless “Ref you suck!” chant.
Other 3rd quarter observations:
- Here’s a half funny, half weird story: I was a tad late getting back to my seat from my halftime meet-up with Jason, Shane, Dan, and Ky so I had to wait for the first stoppage of play with a bunch of other people in my section. As I’m waiting to re-enter, some guy behind me pushes through the crowd as if he’s walking right on in. Partially annoyed, partially trying to be helpful, I say, “Hey, they’re not gonna let you in yet, we have to wait for play stoppage.” He gives me a strange look and then turns to the guy standing in front of me and says, “Hey, I LOVE your show…Just wanted to say Hi!” and then promptly disappears back to the concourse. Wouldn’t you know it, I’m standing right behind Tim Legler of ESPN, who now seemed a bit creeped that out someone tracked him through a crowd.
- The “shoot from your seat” contestant wasn’t very good, and I’m getting a bit tired of this gimmick. It is where someone sits in a series of chairs near the basket and tries to make shots. It seems to either be this game or musical chairs during the early 3rd quarter block. If that’s really the case, whoever decides this stuff should be embarrassed for not having musical chairs every game. Musical chairs rocks.
- Sixer vs. Sixer was fun, with Joel Embiid vs. Amir Johnson on the topic of ice cream flavors. Amir once again proved his grizzled veteran knowledge by naming 6 ice cream flavors while Embiid, still a young 24, could only name 2 ice cream flavors.
- A less-fun gimmick was the video car-race, where fans are told that “the section that cheers the loudest gets their very own t-shirt toss!” I may need to verify this with a scientist, but I don’t think these video cars go any faster regardless of how loud a section cheers. This game seems rigged at worst and not-transparent at best, so I don’t think it should be played in the Wells Fargo Center. This may sound sarcastic, but I’m not kidding – this gimmick stinks.
- The Sixers were up 91-79 headed into the 4th, so I surmised that the first team to 110 would win. I was correct, but could have gone lower – the Raptors only got to 101.
The Sixers crushed the Raptors 35-22 in this quarter, much of which became garbage time. You could tell the Raptors were an injured team on the road on the 2nd night of a back-to-back. Regardless, I’ll take the win – the Sixers could use every win they can get in a tight race atop the Eastern Conference. Two final notes:
- Jonah Bolden, Furkan Korkmaz, and TJ McConnell played pretty well this game off the bench
- World B. Free dressed pretty well this game sort of near the bench
Sixers WIN 126-101. Say it with me: “Fresh water. $1 pretzels.”
Next time I’m in 116, I’ll share some more views. Until then: 1-2-3-4-5-Sixers!