After blowing a 14-point lead, the Sixers were down just four points in the final minutes of Friday's loss to the Celtics. And then Joel Embiid happened.
'The Process' got the ball from T.J. McConnell at the three-point line and the veteran Al Horford charged towards him. This would have scared a lesser man, but Embiid is by no person's definition a lesser man. No, Embiid would flawlessly pump fake Horford into oblivion and move on with his day.
But he would not end there. No he would not. Joel Embiids don't simply pump fake when the basket is in sight. He made his determined move forward.
He put the ball on the floor, using the hardwood in a divine glide towards the hoop. Celtics defensive wiz Avery Bradley made a poke at the ball, but he had no chance of removing the ball from Embiid's possession.
Now Jae Crowder was the only man separating Embiid from the destined dunk. Crowder, a man with hair for days, has paid his dues to the basketball gods — going from back of the bench to rotation piece to starter — and isn't one to be easily posterized. Crowder makes $7 million a year in large part for his defensive prowess, but this is the Process we're talking about.
So Embiid's jump began. Like the leap of a unicorn, it was mesmerizing. The big man reared back his right arm, cradling the ball and slammed it through the cylinder for one of his better dunks.
Watch the dunk right here:
The dunk would not shake the Celtics to the core like it did to me, but it was a tantalizing display of everything right with Embiid's game. Believe it or not, it wasn't even Embiid's first rim-rattler of the game as he started the game off with one.
Cheers to many more!
Three weeks ago, even relatively devout 76ers fans could be forgiven for not recognizing the name Shawn Long. You might've recalled his pretty strong showing for the Sixers at Summer League last July, and if you were on the press mailing list for the Delaware 87ers -- lucky you -- you might have noticed him popping up in a lot of "LONG'S 22 HELPS SEVENS DOWN RED CLAWS" type headlines. But however D-League dominant-he was, it seemed unlikely he'd factor into a Sixers season where the team already had four young, high-upside centers on the roster.
Then of course of those four bigs, one of 'em got surgery, one of 'em got traded and one one of 'em got hurt (and/or maybe just stinks). So with 20 games to go, Shawn Long was called up to the Sixers, posting 13 and seven in garbage time a blowout loss to the Bucks at home. That seemed likely to be the meaningless highlight of a nothing Sixers campaign for Long, but as Okafor keeps missing games with knee issues, Long has continued to be productive in picking up the slack. And last night, he had his best game of the season, posting 18 and 7 in just 19 minutes against the Chicago Bulls.
Long's per-36 numbers, already decently absurd before last night's 117-107 Sixers victory -- just can't help ourselves beating these garbage teams -- are now downright hilarious: 25 and 14, shooting 67% from the floor, with a 28.5 PER The sample size is still too small (92 minutes) to mean anything considerable, and at this point in the season it's hard to trust any numbers being put up by anyone. But it's especially notable on these Sixers, who have seen such similar high-efficiency offensive production from Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and (most recently) Richaun Holmes before the beginning of Longsanity.
It's hard not to start wonder if playing center on this Sixers team is kind of like being a running back for a team with an impenetrable offensive line, or being a ground-ball pitcher on a team with an all-Golden Glove infield. It seems like as long as our big can roll to the hoop, catch the ball and crash the boards off misses, playing with pass-first point guards like T.J. McConnell and Sergio Rodriguez in Brett Brown's increasingly coherent half-court offense ensures at least above-average production from our five-man. (Unless, of course, that center was taken with the No. 3 pick of the 2015 draft, in which case such context doesn't seem to help a ton.)
Or maybe the Sixers just have a better eye for young centers than Drake does for European slang he half-understands. Either way, the Sixers' ability to get such consistent contributions so far down their depth chart is one of the biggest reasons they seem practically certain to win 30 games one year after barely scrapping their way to double-digits. This season really just never stops being incredible for one reason or another, does it?
We thought T.J. McConnell learned.
Remember? Pouring water on Dario Saric is not a good idea?
Yeah, thought that was clearly understood after one Sunday in January.
But McConnell was at it again on Friday night after his buddy Saric poured in a career-high 32 points during a 117-107 win over the Bulls. Just like last time, McConnell struck during Saric's postgame interview with CSN's Molly Sullivan.
And, just like last time, Saric looked like he wanted to destroy his point guard.
Look at it unfold ...
But Saric remembered his mantra: Trust the Friendship.
For the postgame moment, watch below. For highlights from Saric's career night and the full interview, watch the video above.