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. Bucks – Thursday, April 4, 2019
Yesterday, the 49-29 Sixers took on the 58-20 Bucks. The Sixers lost 122-128, falling to 49-30 (3rd seed in the East) while the Bucks improved to 59-20 (1st seed in the East, best record in the NBA).
A nationally televised game meant an 8pm start, which allowed me to eat dinner at home and head over to my buddy RJ’s place ahead of the game. He was nice enough to drive us down to the stadium, where we parked in the Jetro lot (a very #FromHere move, if we do say so ourselves). No Jimmy Butler (back tightness, day-to-day), nor James Ennis III (right quad, re-evaluated in 2 weeks) meant that minutes would be available for rookies Zhaire Smith & Shake Milton. Blue Coats represent!
On the walk over, we talked about Embiid being available for the night, which indicated that the Sixers would actually try to win. They’ve really been coasting since the 6 game win-streak (which included wins over the Celtics, Bucks, and Pacers). Since the final win of that streak over the Celtics, the Sixers have dropped 5 of their last 7 (including this game). This trend has divided a lot of Sixers fans:
While the losing is definitely annoying, I’m actually sort of fine with this strategy. Last year, the Sixers charged into the playoffs on a 16-game winning streak and flamed out in the second round. While they haven’t necessarily demonstrated the ability to “flip the switch,” the benefit of getting Embiid & Butler some rest ahead of what will hopefully be a deep playoff run outweighs the day-to-day annoyance of losing to teams like the Atlanta Hawks. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
The anthem was sung by the great Ron Brooks, who happened to also be celebrating his birthday. Happy Birthday to Ron! Unfortunately, the bell was rung by the bum Bryce Harper, an act which some are saying may have caused the Sixers to lose.
The Sixers started out a little slow defensively and lost the quarter 26-30. The big story this quarter was the near-immediate ejection of Eric Bledsoe, who whipped the ball at Joel Embiid after shoving him in the back:
Embiid, ever the irritant for opposing players, wasn’t exactly innocent here since he tossed the ball Bledsoe’s way in annoyance with Bledsoe’s gratuitous shove. However, Bledsoe’s overreaction sealed his ejection. Embiid + Mike Scott (who immediately was ready to fight on Embiid’s behalf) were assessed with techs themselves. I think the officials got this one right – it would be one of the few times of the evening.
Other 1st quarter observations:
- Not many gimmicks early on – just a lot of dancing, including:
- The Old City Dancers (the fun, elderly dance-team)
- The Sixers Dancers (the less-fun, younger dance-team)
- The 76ers Showdown (the thing where a Sixer is dancing on the jumbotron and fans have to try to match it).
I would have just taken 3 rounds of the Old City Dancers, personally.
- The starting lineup was Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Tobias Harris, Mike Scott, and Joel Embiid. Jonah Bolden, Shake Milton, and TJ McConnell were the first 3 off the bench around the 6 minute mark (for Scott, Redick, and Simmons). Around the 3 minute mark, Simmons, Redick, Boban Marjanovic, and Zhaire Smith checked in to play alongside Bolden. Brett Brown, shorthanded again, has been using these games to figure out who he can trust come playoff time. Throughout the night, Zhaire Smith looked particularly good and may suddenly be in the running for some playoff minutes with the James Ennis III injury. I hope he earns it!
The Sixers tightened up this quarter and won 32-26, taking a two point lead (58-56) into halftime. They trailed most of the quarter and then made a push with about 3 minutes left…which just so happened to be the time Zhaire Smith checked in.
During this stretch, Zhaire registered a block and solid defense, but also committed two fouls. The good outweighed the bad though, as the Sixers turned a 4 point deficit into a 2 point lead heading into the locker room. Again, I focus on Zhaire because the Sixers have no other on-ball defender like him in terms of athleticism and defensive ability. If he can give Butler some positive breaks during the playoffs, I would be delighted.
Other 2nd quarter notes:
- The Chick-Fil-A Parachute Drop, which is the thing where chicken sandwiches rain from the sky, happened between quarters. As per usual, my section (which is in a bit of a dead spot for where the sandwiches are dropped from) missed out.
- The stars were out in full force (I spotted Meek Mill, Allen Iverson, Alshon Jeffery, Rhys Hoskins, Kendall Jenner) and so were a couple of fans who could probably use a shave:
- The “SEPTA Train Cam,” which appears to have supplanted the Carlton Cam, occurred this quarter. Let me reiterate a point I’ve been making all season: The Carlton Cam being slowly eradicated from Sixers games is one of the greatest tragedies of our time. I’ve attended 18 games so far this year and have seen the cam exactly twice (I actually got on it during the home-opener). If the Sixers bring this back for the playoffs, they’ll be doing right by many.
- The halftime show was “The Amazing Sladek”, who stacked many chairs on top of each other and did not fall, despite being upside down at various times. The mind wonders how someone becomes good at this activity.
The Sixers narrowly won this quarter 28-26 and took a four point lead into the 4th quarter. Embiid played well this quarter and began to flirt with a triple-double (he would end the night with a rare 34/13/13 triple-double, but only 12 of 31 shooting…which is really bonkers because he played great, but somehow could have been much better). Mike Scott also began to heat up this quarter and hit clutch-shot after clutch-shot to stave off small runs from the Bucks.
Other 3rd quarter observations:
- There was a new gimmick this quarter that involved a spoof on our friend the Amazing Sladek, courtesy of Sixers mascot Franklin the dog. Franklin got up on a platform and just kept stacking chairs on top of each other, but so they actually just fell into a neat stack and didn’t continuously build a tower. Props to Sladek for letting a cartoonish dog belittle his profession.
- A real swing-and-a-miss happened with the “Beard Cam” this quarter. When Public Beard-Goof #1 is in the building and some wannabe who looks like him ends up “the winner” of this thing, it’s time to shut it down.
- Speaking of failed gimmicks, the Golden Nugget Shuffle happened this quarter too. This is the thing where a fan has to follow a ring that is hidden in one of three virtual boxes shown on the jumbotron, shell-game style. It’s a bad gimmick because nobody has ever been wrong. I’ve been a season ticket holder for now close to three full seasons and can confirm that it is most definitely rigged. If anyone can lose this gimmick and prove to me that they did, I will award them $50.
- The Sixers ended the quarter up 86-82. At this point, after letting up 130 vs. the Hawks and 122 vs. the Mavericks, I believed they did a good job so far at “trying” on defense for this game.
Unfortunately, the Sixers “trying” on defense turned into “failing” on defense by letting up a 46 point 4th quarter, losing said quarter by 10 points and thus also losing the game by 6 points. What made it worse was that the Bucks – who had trailed since halftime – regained the lead with just 1:02 left in the game.
The Sixers played an all-right 1st half and a much better 2nd half, but just couldn’t finish near the end. What should have been a big night for Joel Embiid (triple double), Mike Scott (6-of-8 from three), and Zhaire Smith (solid defensive showing in 18 minutes of play) was spoiled by some brain-farts down the stretch. In disappointing fashion, the Sixers led by 5 with under 3 minutes to go and lost that lead due to some bad turnovers, poor defense, and general discombobulation. They really missed a guy who could take over down the stretch. They really missed Jimmy Butler.
Sixers lose 122-128. No Fresh water. No $1 pretzels.
They have three games left to maintain their hold on 3rd place in the Eastern Conference and, barring a total collapse, that’s where they’ll end up. The Sixers are currently 2 games up on the Celtics, who sit at the 4th seed (and also have 3 games left to play).
Next time I’m in 116, I’ll share some more views. Until then: 1-2-3-4-5-Sixers!
Note: The Sixers are now 14-4 while Eric Marturano has attended games this season. Every thing every fan does matters – don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.