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. Pacers – Sunday, March 10, 2019
On Sunday, the 41-25 Sixers took on the 42-24 Pacers. The Sixers won 106-89, improving to 42-25 (and 3rd place in the Eastern Conference) while the Pacers fell to 42-25 (4th place in the Eastern Conference).
This game was particularly special for my wife Erin & I because we got to share it with Erin’s grandfather Bernie – someone who loves basketball, but hadn’t attended a Sixers game since seeing Wilt Chamberlain.
Ahead of the game, we shared some chicken and donuts from Federal Donuts at my house and then caught a ride down to the game – lots of traffic due to a rare March 10th St. Patrick’s Day parade (guess nobody checks the calendar).
Upon arriving at the stadium, Bernie finally got to meet Wilt, albeit in statue form.
We poked around the concourse, grabbed some drinks, and headed to our seats to watch warm-ups. Boban was out warming-up early and looked pretty good – hopefully he’ll be back in a few games.
Embiid came out of the tunnel for warm-ups sporting a bandaid. No idea why, but hey, he’s back and crushing it so I’m all for it.
I had a feeling this game would be a blowout the moment Ron Brooks came out for the anthem. As if things couldn’t get better, RZA of the WuTang Clan rang the bell.
The Sixers started a little scattered and ended up narrowly winning the quarter 26-25. Tobias Harris got off to a nice start, scoring 9 of his 16 points this quarter and continuing to gel with Ben Simmons.
This Sixers team is so, so talented. The more they play together, the more you’d expect to see highlights similar to the above.
Other 1st quarter observations:
- Jimmy Butler was having trouble keeping up with Bojan Bogdanovic through screens early on. This isn’t what you want to see from a “max” level two-way player. Unless Jimmy truly earns it in the playoffs, I don’t think the Sixers should offer him a max contract (especially with the younger Simmons up for extension & Harris needing a new contract as well). If Jimmy balks at a lesser offer this summer and walks (or a desperate team like the Knicks throw a ton of money at him), the Sixers very well may regret trading cost-controlled defensive stalwart Robert Covington in hindsight.
- The first gimmick came about halfway through the quarter and was the Chik-Fil-A Challenge, the contest where a fan needs to make a layup, free-throw, three-pointer, and half-court shot for various prizes. This fan bricked a ton of free-throws and got off a weak three-point attempt. He was correctly booed.
- Tobias Harris, despite getting off to a nice start offensively (4 quick points), racked up two quick fouls by the 6 minute mark. Brett Brown elected to keep him in until the 3 minute mark and was rewarded with an additional 5 points. Brett Brown ended up coaching a great game – can everyone get off his back until the playoffs are over?
- The officiating this game was a mess, and it began early with a terrible call on Embiid. Domantas Sabonis went to drop his shoulder into the Embiid, who stepped out the way, causing Sabonis to fall (untouched). Embiid rightfully argued the call and was wrongfully hit with a technical foul. The crowd went into a “ref you suck” chant…which unfortunately wouldn’t be the last of the game. There were a few make-up calls for Embiid shortly after, but I’m not really a fan of that “two-wrongs-make-a-right” logic; get the call right the first time.
The Sixers lost this quarter by a total of 25-34, turning their 1-point lead into a 6-point deficit just 2 minutes into the quarter. The Pacers just outplayed them – there was some help from the officials (tight whistle) and the Sixers (turnovers, foul trouble), but they generally got to their spots and hit their shots. Headed into halftime, the Sixers trailed 51-59 (which actually felt lucky to be that close) and had their work cut out for them.
- The Big Head race – the thing with 3 giant cut-out heads being passed down rows in a race – took place this quarter. As a reminder, 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 – I have $50 waiting for you if you do this. I’m going to keep advertising this until someone does it, so please, do it.
- Speaking of gimmicks, the unthinkable happened – a fan actually hit a “shoot for your season” halfcourt shot! Totally drained it too – congrats to this guy!!:
- Ben Simmons had a couple nice slams this quarter and remains un-tradeable:
- The halftime show was “Volta Wheel”, a woman from Cirque de Solei who spun around in a trippy wheel to a techno-music soundtrack. Mesmerizing stuff!
The third quarter was really the story of this game – the Sixers won it 21-11. That’s right: NBA team Indiana Pacers had 11 points in one quarter. It was a grisly brick-fest: The Pacers scored their last field-goal of the quarter to go up 69-64 right around the 7 minute mark. They continued this drought from the field until I jinxed with about 10 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. For you mathematicians out there, that’s about 9 straight minutes of bricks (!!) from the Indiana Pacers. The Sixers played some good defense in the quarter, but watching real-time, it felt like there was a lid on the rim for the Pacers. Thanks to the ugly rock-fight, the Sixers took a 72-70 lead into the 4th.
Other 3rd quarter observations:
- Ben Simmons had a nice drop-step this quarter, which is something he’s really been developing as of late. It’s exciting to see his post game grow. There’s always so much of an emphasis on his lack of shooting, but he has really turned into a “scorer” over the last few months, in addition to being a prolific passer and great defender. He’s 22 years old.
- The poor officiating reared its ugly head again for both the Pacers and the Sixers. Just general inconsistency, lots of whistles, bad calls, and choppy flow. If the NBA could ever figure this out, it’d be a nearly flawless product.
- As far as gimmicks go, the most interesting one this quarter was the Sixers Skills Challenge relay. Two groups of fans put up stellar times of 15 sec and 19 respectively on a weave-around defenders, pass through a target, hand-off to teammate, weave-around defenders, make a layup. Sign them up!
- Even better in the gimmick-department, a Free Frosty happened, which means guess what the Sixers are gonna win:
The Sixers blew the game open in the 4th, winning the quarter 34-19 en-route to a 106-89 rout, largely thanks to Joel Embiid. Embiid took a 15pt game through three quarters and finished the game with more than double that (33pts). He turned it on in his first stint and the crowd loved it:
I was glad to see this and so was Bernie. Heading into the game, I was curious how he would think Embiid compared to Wilt. Here’s his review:
Many Embiid highlights make it easy to see why:
Although I saw a big game from Embiid coming, it sure is special when it happens. Welcome back, JoJo!
Sixers WIN 106-89. Say it with me: “Fresh water. $1 pretzels.”
The Sixers have 15 games left to maintain their hold on 3rd place in the Eastern Conference. Who knows – maybe Kawhi will quit and they’ll catch the Raptors for the 2-seed. 🙂
Next time I’m in 116, I’ll share some more views. Until then: 1-2-3-4-5-Sixers!
Note: Eric Marturano is 12-3 while attending Sixers games this season. Every thing every fan does matters – don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.