By Connor Thomas
The Philadelphia 76ers already had a huge win this weekend before they even took the floor last night against the San Antonio Spurs. On Friday night, MVP frontrunner Joel Embiid went in for a violent slam dunk against the Washington Wizards, received some contact, and landed awkwardly, hyperextending his knee. Embiid fell to the floor, any title hopes for Philadelphia falling with him. Miraculously, the Sixers’ dominant big man found out post-MRI that there was no damage to the ligaments of his knee, escaping the scary incident with a bone bruise and a short couple of weeks’ recovery. Already dodging a bullet on the weekend, the Sixers took the floor last night (of course, without Embiid) in front of real live fans at the Wells Fargo Center with the intention of finishing off a tumultuous weekend on an on-court high note as well. Friday night, while waiting for news on Embiid’s injury, it felt like everything was up in the air. The outcome of last night’s game, on the other hand, was never in doubt. While Embiid, who had just returned from COVID protocol Friday night, was once again unavailable, the Sixers other All-Star in Ben Simmons was back in action for the first time since before the All-Star break. Simmons undoubtedly helped the Sixers, but it was the performance of the supporting cast that helped carry the team for a 3rd straight game. Just 1 minute into the game, the Sixers tied the Spurs at 5-5, and would never relinquish the lead again. Philly’s shooters showed out on Sunday night, starting with Danny Green, who came out of the gates hot with an 11 point 1st quarter that featured 3 3 pointers. It wasn’t a jaw-dropping quarter on the scoreboard, but on the way to their 33 points in the frame, the Sixers shot an eye-popping 58.3% from the floor and 62.5% from deep. With the addition of DPOY candidate Simmons, they were also able to hold the Spurs to 38.5% and 18.2% from the respective ranges. An 11 point lead after 1 is every coach’s dream start, but Doc Rivers’ squad was far from done. The Spurs did fight back in the 2nd quarter, as 3rd year pro bench guard Lonnie Walker put up 11 to keep them in the contest. The Sixers also cooled off, dropping to 48.1% shooting and not making a single 3. They must have been saving them up for the 2nd half. The game was not necessarily out of reach at the break with the Spurs only trailing by 8, but any hope San Antonio had would evaporate in the 3rd quarter. The Spurs were held to 21 points in the frame, with only Jakob Poeltl scoring more than 4 points (he had 5). The Sixers, on the other hand, couldn’t miss if they wanted to. On their way to a 46 point quarter, the team shot an unbelievable 78.3% from the floor, with 5 players not missing a shot. Simmons, Tony Bradley, Dwight Howard, Matisse Thybulle, and Mike Scott were a combined 9 for 9, and the combination of Tobias Harris and Seth Curry yielded 23 more points on top of that. It was possibly the most impressive complete quarter of basketball that the Sixers have played so far this season, and it came without the team’s best player. With a 33 point lead heading into the 4th quarter, Philly’s next 5 best players would also exit the game. The bench finished off the final 12 minutes, outscoring the Spurs’ reserves 28-26 to lock up a 35 point win. Fans were even the beneficiaries of a pair of Frosty Freeze Outs, just in case the first game in over a year with live attendance had not gone well enough already. The Sixers finished the game with 6 players in double figures, and a 57.1% shooting percentage in what can only be described as a complete and total domination of a lesser opponent. The win marked the Sixers’ 4th in a row, and the most recent of a 3-0 start to the team’s 2nd half. The now 27-12 Eastern Conference leaders will be back in action tomorrow night as the improved New York Knicks will be in town to try and prevent a 5th straight victory for the home team.