Following a 35-point blowout win, the Philadelphia 76ers are walking with a noticeable swagger. It’s not a disrespectful arrogance, more of budding confidence. And why shouldn’t they be waltzing on air?
The Sixers blew out the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday to notch their fifth straight win dating back to March 1. It marked their largest margin of victory ever against the Spurs and their three consecutive victories by at least 20 points tied another franchise record. Philly has also shot at least 50% from the field in their last five contests for the first time since 1992.
“We gotta win, we gotta hold it down,” guard Ben Simmons said. “I think we have all the pieces to win and, as you saw tonight, we have guys who can get it done. The way we play the game … we play together and that’s how we win, ultimately.”
Simmons scored 14 points in 26 minutes in his first game back from quarantine. He locked all the doors on defense while controlling the pace of the game with what Doc Rivers called “the flow pass.” It was a thing of beauty to watch, especially with Joel Embiid out of commission for two weeks due to a bone bruise in his knee.
“We need everybody and everybody has to stay ready,” forward Tobias Harris said, “and be ready to step up night after night. Obviously, with Joel being out for some time, it’s just on us to really find different things, and make our chemistry even stronger until he comes back.”
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‘We’re Competing for a Championship’
It’s not exactly breaking news to hear Sixers players talk about hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The stated goal of winning a championship has been on everyone’s mind since those halcyon “Trust the Process” days in 2014.
However, this season feels different to both players and fans. So when Simmons uttered the dirty “C” word on Sunday night, it ignited sports talk radio lines throughout the City of Brotherly Love. Tiles aren’t won in March, but trust is gained. The Sixers hold a one-game lead on the Brooklyn Nets for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re competing for a championship. This isn’t a team that’s just trying to make the playoffs,” Simmons said. “We want to hold the first seed and win a championship, so we know what it takes. We got all the pieces, everyone just needs to stay locked in.”
Another great first step was getting fans back at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers allowed 3,100 rowdies into the arena on Sunday night to watch a 134-99 rout by the hometown team. Things are looking up.
“Man, when you were there and you walked out, it was awesome,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought their noise, their spirit … I thought it got our guys excited. It’s amazing how much we miss the fans and in particular our fans.”
Simmons Pokes Fun at Lowly Wizards Commentator
Washington Wizards play-by-play announcer Justin Kutcher found himself in Simmons’ doghouse after he called the Sixers star one of the most overrated players in the NBA. He was trying to compliment Harris’ accomplishments — the snubbed All-Star is enjoying a career year — but felt the need to slam Simmons in the process.
“I’ve said it before and I know I’ll take flak for it. I think Ben Simmons is one of, if not the most overrated players, in the NBA,” Kutcher said on Friday night. “He’s gotten so much love and attention that people aren’t paying attention to what Tobias Harris is actually doing on the floor.”
Simmons fired back on Sunday night with a jovial response, claiming he had to scroll through Instagram to see who Kutcher was. He walked away less than impressed once he did the research.
“It is what it is. He’s like a 5-foot-5 commentator for the Wizards, man,” Simmons said. “I can’t give it too much attention. I was just playing a little game with him [on social media], but it is what it is. Everyone has their voice and they can say what they want.”