Saturday night couldn’t have gone better at Wells Fargo Center.
The Sixers 100th consecutive sellout was a 113-86 blowout of the previously 11-3 Miami Heat, who are led by former Sixer Jimmy Butler, who was arguably one of the worst players on the floor Saturday. The final score wasn’t indicative of how much of a domination it was.
“I don’t like that we lost, but I like that we lost,” Butler said, suggesting this could be a catalyst to get Miami back on track.
Butler went from hearing chants of his name in the spring to boos when he touched the ball in his first game back.
It took 16 games, but this was the first time all season the Sixers were comfortably in control. Even better, it happened against a quality team, which is a great sign.
Yes, Miami was on night two of a road back-to-back, but the 76ers were playing two in a row as well. Albeit in their own building, that’s still a tough thing to do.
Defensively, they stifled the Heat. Offensively, the starters finally felt like they were in a groove—making shots and displaying a level of chemistry that hadn’t existed to this point.
From chants of “Jimmy Butler” in May to loud boos coming down from the stands—it’s been a tale of two different stories for Butler in terms of his relationship with Philadelphia.
Even though Butler said he didn’t notice the boos during the game, the fans deserve a lot of credit for setting the tone of the night by bringing it from prior to the jump. In addition to getting booed, Butler shot poorly and didn’t defend well. How could anybody do that with how well the Sixers were shooting? Nonetheless, Butler scored 11 points in 30 minutes on four-of-13 from the floor, finishing a dreadful minus-31. Butler sat the entire fourth quarter with the game well out of reach.
Meantime, Josh Richardson annihilated his old squad, shooting the lights out while playing sensational defense. He scored 32 on 11-of-15 from the floor, six-of-seven from distance, good for a plus-33.
The Sixers are the hottest ticket in town, evident by their 100th consecutive sellout Saturday night.
In that stretch, the Sixers are 75-25, which is sensational. If the 76ers are able to lock up the top seed come the playoffs, it will be a tough task for Eastern Conference foes to have the postseason run through Wells Fargo Center.
Many, including this media member, hoped we would find out Saturday night why Butler and the Sixers didn't come to terms on an extension over the summer to keep him in Philadelphia. We were left empty handed.
“That’s something in the past,” Butler said postgame. “I’ll leave it there. What happened in the summer, the meeting and the talks, that’s for us to know.”
“I mean he had some great games for us,” Brett Brown said pregame when asked what his experience was like with him last season, “and we came close at the end, and sometimes things just don’t work out. He’s in a good place. He’s in a really good place, and we wish him well.”
We wish him well is a phrase Brown has used before—i.e. Markelle Fultz—the former number one overall pick the Sixers moved on from after less than two seasons with the squad.
So, why didn’t it work out with Butler?
“I think that that, you know, there are different reasons and, uh, I’m really not gonna comment much on that now.”
Even though the Sixers found serviceable replacements for Butler and JJ Redick in Al Horford and Josh Richardson, losing Butler was still disappointing to many fans. That disappointment from the masses was on full display during the game considering Butler got booed during player introductions and when he touched the ball. Regardless of why Butler is no longer a Sixers, the bottom line is he’s no longer in the good graces of Philadelphia.
It apparently wasn’t meant to be, regardless of all those balloons, doughnuts and highlights played that November 2018 afternoon at the team’s Camden headquarters. Not to mention, I’m not sure anyone felt sad about Butler no longer being a Sixer considering the dominating win that took place Saturday night over Miami.
Joel Embiid will have to rest games, whether he likes it or not.
“Load management—that’s some B.S.,” Embiid said after part one of this weekend’s back-to-back with the Spurs and Heat.
Even though Embiid played both games, it’s obvious he never wants there to be a second thought about whether or not he’ll play.
“I want to play every game. I’m tired of sitting.”
You expect Embiid, an elite competitor and even better trash talker, to want to play all the time. But, history is history, and his in terms of staying healthy stinks. Not to mention, it’s evident a lot of the league believes an 82-game regular season schedule is too much based on how often players rest, and the rumors that the NBA is thinking about reducing the amount of games before the postseason.
“I don’t think any player likes restrictions on how many games they play or minutes that they play,” Brown said pregame Saturday in response to Embiid’s comments Friday. “I personally think it’s a sign more of competitiveness than it is anything. I think as you get older, you probably embrace it more. At this stage of his career, he challenges it. We include him in discussions with the people that are employed to make those type of recommendations, but it doesn’t surprise me that he would comment as he did.”