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Views from 116: 2/8 vs. Nuggets (Moses Malone jersey retirement)

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. Nuggets – Friday, February 8, 2019

Yesterday, the 34-20 Sixers took on the 37-17 Nuggets. The Sixers won 117-110, improving to 35-20 while the Nuggets fell to 37-18.

Pregame:

What a difference a few days can make! Soon after I finished my depressing write-up of the Sixers loss to the Raptors on Tuesday, they pulled off an enormous and much-needed trade…for…Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, and Mike Scott?? Wait, what? Where did that come from?!

I’ve been in shock these last few days as the Sixers started with a bang and continued to be active right up to the final hour of the deadline. Luckily, my brother Jim was keeping a close eye on things as the trade deadline came and went. He was nice enough to offer some analysis of what exactly happened and what it means for the Sixers going forward– as always, feel free to yell at him on Twitter if you disagree:

Jim’s Take:

The NBA trade deadline was something I was looking forward to this year, and it didn’t disappoint. Elton Brand made some very big moves to put the Sixers into a position to make a deep playoff run this season. The buyout season is still coming up, and it’s possible the Sixers tap into that for more veterans, but they definitely got solid bench pieces during the deadline. 

I was very impressed with the Tobias Harris trade, which I woke up to on Wednesday morning. I was thrilled that we made a big-time move, and also surprised because I didn’t think we would be targeting any big name players. The trade sounds like we gave up a lot, but looking closer, it is mostly made of pieces that wouldn’t be helpful to us this season or next (specifically, our 2020 1st round pick and the Heat’s 2021 1st round pick). This was the trade:

Clippers get:
– Landry Shamet
– Wilson Chandler
– Mike Muscala
– Two first round picks (Our lottery protected 2020 and the unprotected Heat 2021)
– Two second round picks

 Sixers get:
– Tobias Harris
– Boban Marjanovic
– Mike Scott

What I like the most about this trade is that it gives the Sixers an unreal starting five with 2 all-stars, 2 fringe all-stars (honestly, they’re both better than Khris Middleton), and one of the best shooters in the NBA in Redick. I feel like the ball movement and ball hand-offs the Sixers use could compliment Harris’ game because of his ability to both shoot the ball and attack the rim. Another big piece is Boban, the 7’3” Serbian who fills a much-needed role of back-up center. With him in the rotation, when Embiid comes out, we don’t lose too much on interior defense. 

Aside from the Harris trade, the Sixers also traded Markelle Fultz with about 15 minutes to go before the Thursday 3:00pm deadline. Last time I wrote here, I said that we should keep Fultz, but I really like this move. It goes along with Elton Brand’s plan to win now. Fultz wasn’t giving us anything but trouble at the moment, and we would need the money dedicated to him for the offseason, so dealing him and getting a solid rotation player in Jonathon Simmons, (yes, another Simmons lol), plus two draft picks was a good move. On top of that, we got another body to fill our roster in James Ennis by just giving up cash considerations and the advantage in a 2021 second round pick-swap. The Sixers also briefly had Malachi Richardson for the cost of cash consideration, but he was released to make room for Ennis. They did get another 2022 second rounder out of it though.

So, to sum up the Sixers’ moves before the trade deadline, I think they won big. Here’s everything we gained and lost:

Gained:
– Tobias Harris
– Boban Marjanovic
– Mike Scott
– Jonathon Simmons
– James Ennis
– Thunder 2020 First Round Pick (Top-20 protected, turns into 2022 and 2023 seconds if it doesn’t convey)
– Magic 2019 Second round pick (most favorable of Cleveland, Orlando, Houston, or Portland)
– Raptors 2022 Second Round Pick

Lost:
– Markelle Fultz
– Landry Shamet
– Wilson Chandler
– Mike Muscala
– Sixers 2020 First Round Pick (Lottery protected)
– Heat 2021 First Round Pick (Unprotected)
– Pistons 2021 Second Round Pick
– Pistons 2023 Second Round Pick
– Rights to swap Houston 2021 Second Round Pick

I believe with the moves Brand has made, the Sixers have a very good shot to compete for a title this year.

After all of trade deadline movement, the team my wife Erin and I saw last night was a far-cry from what we saw earlier in the week against the Raptors. As if the new players weren’t exciting enough, last night was also the night that the Sixers would finally retire Moses Malone’s jersey. For me, this was a big deal – Moses shaped a lot of how I love and understand basketball and I keep a signed jersey of his framed in my home.

Moses Malone holds a special place in our home

I’m not the only one here at PFO with immense appreciation for the Chairman of the Boards, and it was great to be in the building with fans, friends, and family celebrating a wonderful career and wonderful life.

My wife Erin and I got to the stadium early to enjoy the doubly-exciting atmosphere of Moses Malone night and first game after the trade deadline. Every fan in attendance got a Moses shirt from Mitchell & Ness, but I’ll take the one I have already any day:

Soon it was time for the anthem, and Ron Brooks, anthem extraordinaire, belted out a beauty. The buzz in the building was fantastic, and it felt fitting that the 1983 title team rang the bell the same night a Sixers team with possibly the most scoring options since that team took the floor for the first time:

Game on!

First Quarter:

The new-look Sixers came out firing and excited to play, winning the opening quarter 33-23. Immediately, the Tobias Harris effect was obvious – another player who could shoot and score on their own opened up oceans of floor for JJ Redick (who would finish the night with 34 pts and 6-7 from 3pt-land). The monstrous starting lineup of Simmons-Redick-Butler-Harris-Embiid ran together for a solid 6 minutes and put the Sixers in the driver’s seat early.

Other 1st quarter observations:
  • New reserves Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott, and James Ennis checked in about halfway through the 1st, and Boban, immediately, was a fan favorite. Somehow taller than Joel Embiid, the goofy giant served as a reliable backup during this game. Generally, I’d like to see him split time with Jonah Bolden as the backup five, depending on the team-matchups – Boban getting the nod for bigger centers (like Jokic) and Bolden deployed against smaller teams that like to run. We’ll see how Brett Brown uses him going forward.
  • Mike Scott is a clear upgrade over Mike Muscala defensively. After watching 32 minutes of Muscala on Tuesday, I’m thrilled to see the Threegional Manager in the rotation.
  • Tobias Harris stroked his first shot of the game – a smooth three-pointer. He finished the night with 14 points, but it felt like he could get whatever he wanted while simultaneously making life easier for everyone else on the floor. Also? Decent defender! Athletic and quick enough to stay with guys – something that can’t be said for now former-Sixer Wilson Chandler.
  • James Ennis seemed like a competent defender and a useful rotation player – a “guy,” if you will. He didn’t have a stellar game, but he hit both three-pointers he took during the game, which is all you can ask for a seventh or eighth man.
  • Korkmaz saw the floor early in the 1st and also sporadically throughout the game for a total of 12 minutes. Once Jonathon Simmons joins the team, I would expect those minutes to drop close to 0.
  • Off the court, there were a lot less gimmicks and fan games than usual – instead, timeouts were replaced with various Moses Malone tribute videos. The Sixers really went to great lengths to make the evening Moses-centric, and it was clearly appreciated by many in the stands.

Second Quarter:

The Sixers lost this quarter 23-33, the same score they won the first quarter by, leaving them locked at 56 by halftime. The Nuggets seemed to recover from the Sixers opening haymakers and forced a lot of turnovers. Turnovers have often been the problem with this team, no matter who is playing on it, and it’s something that will need to tighten up by the time these “win-now” Sixers make their playoff run.

Other notes:
  • We did have a gimmick amidst the many Moses videos this quarter – the Big Head race. Usually, this is the thing with 3 giant cut-out heads being passed down rows in a race, but this time there were 4 (Tobias Harris was added to the usual Ben, Jimmy, Joel lineup). As for the race itself, I don’t pay attention to who wins this anymore because nobody has had the courage to run out of the stadium with the big head when it’s passed to them – remember, I have $50 waiting for you if you do this. I’m going to keep advertising this until someone does it, so please, do this.
  • There were the beginnings of some interesting lineup experiments, as our new players offer a lot more versatility. Redick and Embiid seem to be attached at the hip, to no surprise to anyone who’s watched Brett Brown coach these last two years. That leaves Simmons, Harris, and Butler moving in and out of different looks with bench support. I’m curious to see how Brett settles these experiments in the coming weeks. In this game, each starter played 32-36 minutes, and each bench player played 12-16 minutes. Getting the mixes and staggerings of the 5 starters with the bench players right will be really important heading into the playoffs.
  • Despite losing the quarter by 10 points, the Sixers did have some nice plays. One that stood out in particular was Simmons’ gorgeous lob to Butler for a one-handed slam:
  • Lots of members of my family got on the dance cam this quarter – my wife Erin and I did briefly and were soon followed by my cousin Nicole (who is also a season ticketholder in another section). Always nice to see family, even on the jumbotron!
  • Ben Simmons attempted a desperation three-pointer at the end of the half which almost went in. It almost seemed natural and normal for this to happen. If he’s able to add any sort of jump-shooting to his already improved game on a roster this talented? Look out!

Halftime:

The Moses Malone jersey retirement ceremony took place at halftime, and it was really awesome. Many former teammates were in attendance alongside Moses’ family. Sixers announcer Marc Zumoff and Sixers legend Julius Erving spoke. Touchingly, Moses requested before his death that his banner include the name of every Sixers player he ever played with. Enjoy this tribute video from the Sixers, which was played at the ceremony:

Third Quarter:

The Sixers narrowly won the 3rd quarter, 27-26, giving them an 83-82 lead headed into the 4th. The big thing I noticed this quarter was how out of it Embiid was offensively. I give him a lot of credit for playing with reported illness and trouble even keeping food down, but his game was clearly affected – he ended the night 4-17 from the field and 0-5 from three-point land. Still though, he found other ways to contribute and was a +13 with 12 rebounds and 4 blocks – and one particularly stellar close-out swat to preserve the lead at the end of the quarter:

Other 3rd quarter observations:
  • The (rigged) Golden Nugget shuffle took place this quarter. My $20 offer still stands for anyone who can pull off a loss:

  • I needed to get this off my chest somewhere, so here it goes: Nikola Jokic is a bum who elbows and pushes off on offense every time he backs someone down. Despite being far from an offensive genius, he has somehow become the king of the “so fun to watch” NBA Twitter on the strength of a few nifty passes and having a cool name. He is not fun to watch. He is slow and lame. If you disagree, I’d encourage you to move on, find a new slant, and root someone who could actually be the best player on a title team. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
  • There was a point in the game where Jimmy Butler was the only starter left on the floor with 4 bench players, with the Sixers up 76-72 with about 4:20 to go in the 3rd. Around the 3 minute mark, Brett Brown had enough of this lineup and sent Redick (yes!), Embiid (great!), and Korkmaz (yikes!) to the scorers table. They checked in with 2:45 left in the 3rd and the score now tied 76-76. I have a feeling we won’t be seeing that Jimmy-only lineup for a while, if ever again.
  • Although Furkan Korkmaz only played 12 minutes tonight, it felt like 30. He continues to be my least favorite Sixer.

Fourth Quarter:

The Sixers won the 4th quarter 34-28, carrying them to a 117-110 victory. Most of the quarter was back and forth (“on the seesaw,” as Marc Zumoff would say), and the Nuggets wouldn’t go away. With just under 2 minutes to play, Ben Simmons took matters into his own hands:

As I’ve said with this team before – Ben needs to be “leader guy,” Embiid needs to be “anchor guy,” and Butler needs to be “get a bucket guy.” Harris now offers another “get a bucket guy,” which takes this team to the next level. Still though, Ben needs to lead, and he did tonight in stellar fashion. Despite a game high 9 turnovers, he did enough to win and came up big when it mattered. Kudos to Ben Simmons.

As the Sixers began to ice the game and I watched Jimmy Butler take free-throws (of which he was 14-14 on the night), I screamed out TRUST THE PROCESS and began the clap chant. Others in my section joined in, and I was not only glad but oddly touched as I thought back on what “The Process” has brought to not only me and other Sixers fans, but Philadelphia. When I committed to becoming a season-ticket holder, it was in the heart of “The Process” era, during the infamous 10-72 season. Others in my section have similar stories. In February 2019, we all got to watch a new “Big Four” lineup with a future as bright as any team in the league. This 2018-2019 season has already been so memorable, and it’s only February! Hopefully, we’ll have more memories to make this June. One step at a time though – Trust The Process, always.

Sixers WIN 117-110. 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!

Eric Marturano

I am a Sixers season ticket holder. Trust the Process.
I predicted that Nick Foles would win Super Bowl MVP after Wentz went down. Go Birds.

Follow me @TheEMart on Twitter, or listen to my podcast (Two Paisani & A Pizza) on iTunes, SoundCloud, or our homebase website
(http://necessaryroughnesspodcast.blogspot.com/)

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