There are seemingly countless metrics one can use to detail Joel Embiid's supremacy as a Sixer, but perhaps no stats more clearly tell the story of how indefatigable the rookie has been this season than those of his free-throw shooting. Despite ranking just eighth on the team in total minutes, he's already gotten to the line 215 times this season and made 169 of them, about 250% more than the second-most made FTs on the team (Ersan Ilyasova, 65). What's more, his seven games with ten or more free throws attempted is already more than Thaddeus Young (six), Evan Turner (three) or Jrue Holiday (zero) ever had as a Liberty Baller.
But yesterday against the Bucks saw JoJo hit a new level with his foul drawing. Despite essentially being shut down by the Bucks in the first half -- I can't remember if he even had a single bucket at the break -- The Process eventually imposed his will in Milwaukee in a major way, parading to the line in the second half, ending with 22 points (as well as 12 rebounds and five blocks) on 4-9 shooting, getting to the line an astounding 18 times.
Who was the last Sixers giant to accomplish such a feat, you might wonder? Well...
Yes, it's been an impressive season for our double-redshirt rookie, and every game he seems to add another immortal name to his list of historical analogues. But not until now could we afford to mention him alongside the great Henry "Lickface" Sims, two-year Process legend whose 18 trips to the free-throw line on April 4, 2014 totally helped us win that random late-season game against the then-rebuilding Boston Celtics. As impossible as it once seemed, it now appears that soon, Embiid's folk herodom will be as self-evident and undeniable to the Sons of Sam as that of Hammerin' Hank himself.
Get this guy to the All-Star team already.
Two stories dominated my Twitter timeline last night: The Ringling Brothers' Greatest Show on Earth traveling circus show closing after 146 years, and the Verizon Center in D.C. being overwhelmed by rabid Sixers fans. The timing was unrelated but seemed not entirely uncoincidental: After chants of "Trust the Process" ringing out through the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the TD Garden in Boston, the Wizards' game made it three straight games that Sixers fans had followed their team on the road, officially making it one of the biggest traveling shows of entertainers and weirdos in the business.
Of course, last night's game wasn't a totally representative showing of an average Sixers away showing, as the Process luminaries over at the Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast made it the site of Bus the Process II, a 350-person convoy from Philly to Washington that ended with some goon in an OptionaliTees Dario Saric The Sixer T-Shirt being interviewed by Molly Sullivan on broadcast TV. But it seems like an achievable goal that someday soon — especially after the way the team participated in the expedition, with Brett Brown paying for part of the celebration and Joel Embiid shaking hands and kissing babies — pockets of Sixers cultists will be touring with the time like they were the Grateful Dead, freaking out opposing fanbases and repping for us Hinkie 'heads on a 100 percent national scale.
Unfortunately, last night's show wasn't our band's best: The Sixers got out to a big first-half lead but lost it by the half and got blown out in the final 24, eventually losing 109-93. Jahlil Okafor was at least somewhat blameless in his first return to action in over a week — lousy rim protection, but 26 and 9 on 10 for 16 shooting made him by far the team's best offensive contributor — but the Wizards' guards absolutely torched us, with John Wall and Bradley Beal combining for 45 as our own White Iverson and Sauce Castillo paired for six points on 3 for 17 shooting.
Nonetheless, we got a couple highlight plays to leave the kiddies dazzled, and the fans filled out the rest.
By the way, in case you were wondering:
Joel Embiid: Ringleader
Jahlil Okafor: Sad clown
Sergio Rodriguez: Juggler
Nerlens Noel: Tightrope walker
Nik Stauskas: Trapeze artist
Robert Covington: Lion tamer
Ben Simmons: Knife thrower
T.J. McConnell: Human cannonball
Bryan Colangelo: Mime
A sentence that's getting weirdly unweird in the 2016-'17 NBA season: The Philadelphia 76ers won again last night. They beat the Charlotte Hornets, 102-93, making their third win in a row — first winning streak that long since early '14 — and their fifth in six tries. They're now 6-1 with T.J. McConnell as a starter, and 3-1 in the Jahlil Okafor DNP-CD era. They've officially pulled even with the pace of the 2013-'14 76ers for the best of the Process era, but with reverse trajectory — the first-year Hinkie/Brown Sixers sagged to 12-25 with four L's in a row and won just seven games the remainder of the season.
The remarkable thing about last night's win was how kinda nothing it was. Yeah, it came at home against a "winning" team (though they ain't winning no more, evening out at 20-20 after the loss) but it wasn't either a smackdown or a squeak-by, and there was no particular reason why it happened — Joel Embiid had 24 (eight straight with 20-plus!) and went to the line 14 times, Dario Saric hit four threes, but hardly a historic effort from any individual Baller. It was a game that the Sixers won relatively cleanly, mostly because they played better than the other team. And that's not such a strange thing anymore.
Last night, of course, the defense was the biggest thing. Despite still having the league's bottom-rated offense, the Sixers have pulled up to 13th in defensive efficiency, getting dangerously close to Brett Brown's desired top-10 DRtg. Last night was nearly a best-case scenario for the team, as McConnell and Robert Covington made life absolutely miserable for Kemba Walker and the Hornets' perimeter guys, and Embiid and Nerlens Noel picked up the slack down low, combining for seven blocks. Walker went 7 of 23 and the Hornets combined for 32.9 percent overall shooting, the lowest opposing FG percentage for the Sixers in nearly two years of games.
Earlier in the season, we celebrated the fact the Sixers had elevated their play to Normal Bad level; where they still lost most of their games, and occasionally in embarrassing fashion, but still picked up the odd W here and there and were never absolutely unwatchable. I wouldn't yet suggest the Sixers have catapulted to Normal Good — they have to win some more games still, preferably away from home, maybe against other Normal Good teams — but they do appear to have reached plain Normal, part of the East's bottomless pack of teams that can win some nights and lose others and not have either be a big deal. If The Process is really over already, maybe it's time to just starting Trusting The Sixers.