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. Rockets – Monday, January 21, 2019 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)
Yesterday, the 30-17 Sixers took on the 26-19 Rockets. The Sixers won 121-93, improving to 31-17 while the Rockets fell to 26-20.
A fun night for this fan began with dinner and drinks at Khyber Pass over in Old City, with my pal RJ and wife Erin. After our meal, RJ and I caught a ride to the stadium, talking all the way about how Jimmy Butler was out and that meant Corey Brewer would be guarding James Harden – more on this later.
Harden, once a darling of The Basketball Analytics Twitter Scene™, has recently been stacking gaudy-yet-inefficiently-selfish numbers in an effort to keep the injured Rockets afloat in a tough West. Ironically, in doing so, he’s beginning to look a lot like Kobe Bryant, the guy every self-proclaimed member of The Basketball Analytics Twitter Scene™ tends to make fun of. I get endless joy from this, so please join me in proclaiming James Harden as Analytics Kobe as he makes another run for an MVP award.
The combination of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday and MVP-level visitor seemed to drive the stadium to full capacity, akin to Opening Night or other big-ticket games. RJ and I got to our seats quite early and enjoyed some little league b-ball from local teams. At one point, in-arena announcer Christian Crosby began the 10-seconds-left game countdown, which caused many of the kids to panic and one to attempt a half-court shot (which didn’t reach the 3pt arch). I’m all for more scrimmages like this ahead of warm-ups – very fun!
The Sixers looked pretty good this quarter, winning 30-26. Great minutes from Joel Embiid, Corey Brewer (more on him later…seriously, it’s worth the wait), Ben Simmons, and Landry Shamet jumped out to me in different ways. With Clint Capela out for Houston, Embiid pressed his advantage in the post early and didn’t let up. Shamet, always a gamer, played hard and hit shots. Corey Brewer made some nice cuts and had a gorgeous spin move for a layup:
Ben Simmons also seems to have gotten much better without the ball in his hands, setting screens and thinking of other ways to get involved on offense. As a team, the Sixers looked great on both ends.
Other 1st quarter observations:
- James Harden is a bum and really annoying to watch. The crowd immediately treated him like a hated rival, which I found interesting. I guess he’s really reached Kobe level at this point, huh?
- The first break came fairly late, with 6:44 to go in the 1st. During the break, the Threes for Trees contest (make a layup, free-throw, three-pointer, and half-court shout) occurred with an older woman so endearing she did NOT get booed, despite bricking like 5 layups and never hitting a free-throw. Philadelphia might be getting soft!
- RJ made the observation that Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni always keeps his hands in his pockets when he argues with officials, making him seem less threatening. I found this hilarious, so I thought you might too.
- There was a certain point where I genuinely wondered if the Sixers strategy was to put their worst defender on Harden…somewhere between Redick and Shamet trying to guard him, I think. Given how one-dimensional and predictable the Rockets are without Chris Paul or Clint Capela, this actually might be a decent scheme.
- Another bad “cam” idea – the Beard Cam – occurred this quarter. The stadium for sure saved this terrible idea for the James Harden visit, and I’m very disappointed they didn’t make the “Unwatchable Bum Cam” in his honor instead.
The Sixers throttled the Rockets this quarter 35-24. I know a +11 point margin doesn’t exactly seem like a throttling, but this is a case where numbers do not tell the whole story. Corey Brewer, TJ McConnell, and Joel Embiid spent the quarter getting inside both the shirt and the mind of James Harden. Corey Brewer, American Hero, pulled multiple cartoonish stunts against Noted Bum, James Harden that made me very, very happy:
Tonight felt like the night Corey Brewer earned a spot on this roster.
- Between quarters, the Big Head race occurred. This is the thing with three giant cut-out heads being passed down rows in a race. I don’t actually know who won because I was distracted with…
- COATY, who was in the building. If you don’t know Coaty, he’s the Delaware Blue Coats horse who is much, much cooler than Franklin (sorry, pal). To compensate for being less cool, Franklin was a consummate host and made it a point to pal around with Coaty for like the entire quarter, doing goofy mascot things throughout the stadium. If the Sixers want to make hay during this upcoming road stretch, they should sign Coaty to a two-way contract. Who says neigh?
- Embiid was clearly interested in keeping pace with Harden tonight, which to me implied he’s thinking about his MVP narrative. I loved to see this from our best player, who played great on both ends in this quarter and the entire game (as opposed to the bum-like high-volume mediocrity of one James Harden).
- Mike D’Antoni was so upset at Harden’s inability to beat a team starting Corey Brewer that he got a tech at the end of the half. I would have given him two.
- There were gimmicks this quarter but they were the ones I hate – the video car jumbtron race (for babies, belongs at the Phillies games) and the Price is Right (aka a terrible ad for ShopRite, way too many of the prices there are deemed “higher”). I won’t dignify these with a summary because they shouldn’t occur in the first place.
- The Sixers went into the half up 65-50.
The Sixers continued to run away with the game in the 3rd, winning the quarter 29-13. Can you believe it? 13 total points in a quarter from a team that employs scoring artist James Harden. Pretty incredible, MVP-level stuff if you ask me! After being energized by Brewer in the 2nd quarter, the 3rd quarter crowd (myself included) was letting Harden have it – he drew his 4th foul pretty quickly, and that was essentially curtains for the Rockets.
Other 3rd quarter observations:
- Sixer vs. Sixer occurred this quarter, which is one we’ve seen before, but still plays pretty well – Embiid vs. Simmons in naming ice-cream flavors. Embiid could only muster 2 while Simmons dropped 11 flavors, including Pistachio. Can’t teach that!
- The Septa Fan Cam, which isn’t great but is growing on me, occurred this quarter as well.
- Most importantly, a FREE FROSTY occurred:
- The Sixers led 94-63 after 3 quarters, which meant we were headed for a nice 12 minutes of garbage trash time.
The only thing of note this quarter happened in the stands – an epic dance-off between two of our favorite Dance Cam contestants throughout the season. This quickly escalated from a normal dance-off to the rare shirtless dance-off, making for laughs all-around on a fun night and blowout win:
Sixers WIN 121-93. 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!