Sixers

Sixers’ Streaking Offense Demands Respect

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The Philadelphia 76ers are quietly continuing to establish themselves as legit title contenders in the Eastern Conference.

The Sixers have won seven-straight games and are now 20-4 in their last 24 games. This propels them into the second seed in the East, which is also now the second-best record in the whole league.

How are they getting this done you ask? Elite offense. Doing it by committee, it feels like everyone has had some impact on winning. If you’re winning as much as the Sixers are, you’re going to need it.

Let’s take a look into how exactly the stars and others are getting it done in Philly.

Classic Harden Hoop

James Harden has looked like a vintage version of himself, undoubtedly elevating the rest of the group around him. He is top five in the NBA in total assists right now. Impressive, considering he’s been limited due to injury and has about ten fewer games played than the others around him at the top.

Wednesday night against the Brooklyn Nets was the epitome so far of the classic Harden stretch we’ve been seeing. Notching 23 points on 50% shooting, five threes and seven assists, it seemed he knew just where to help at the right times.

Though this didn’t count for an assist since Tobias Harris missed the first bucket, Harden can do an incredible job of seeing open cutters and leak-outs in transition.

Harden also scored eight of his 23 points in the last 3:48 of the fourth quarter. It was another solid throwback-esque performance as he hit stepback jumpers left and right.

Harden’s main focus should be facilitating and getting everyone else going first. Only having to use his scoring talent from time to time and in late-game needs bodes as best case scenario in the long run for the Sixers. Come playoff time, Harden and the others will be ready for any opponent to come their way. Especially if they continue to give themselves the most straightforward path possible when they get there.

Embiid All-Star Starter Snub?

If there was ever an argument to make the NBA All-Star starters positionless, it’s Joel Embiid getting snubbed from starting in this year’s event.

Averaging 33.8 points per game on 53.2% from the field (71.9% in the restricted area!), Embiid has completely taken control of this Sixers team. He ranks in the 99th percentile with a usage rate of 36.5%, per Cleaning the Glass.

That’s the second highest of his career so far. Every night, the offense is run through Embiid post-play or Harden-Embiid pick and roll.

He showed he was over the “disrespect” Saturday afternoon with his spectacular 47-point, 18-rebound performance. With 5:48 left in the fourth quarter, Embiid went on a streak of scoring four-straight baskets. The Sixers were down two, then up five with 4:36 left. Strictly thanks to Embiid willing the basketball in the hoop.

To cap the Saturday matinee off, he hit a stepback three-ball in opposing conference All-Star starting center Nikola Jokic‘s face. Sending Wells Fargo Center into a frenzy.

The elite scoring and sheer presence of Embiid himself should have secured the starting spot. If winning is the measuring stick for you, as mentioned before, the Sixers are sitting pretty at second best in the NBA now.

Not to mention he brings his own exciting kind of energy all should want to experience at an All-Star game.

As we saw already, this has a chance to add some fuel to Embiid’s already-lit fire. Considering, he’s ranked second in the MVP race according to B-Ball references MVP tracker, he might look to go berserk in the second half and steal the award from the back-to-back winner, and again favorite, Nikola Jokic.

Team Bench Offense Thriving

The Sixers’ offense is clicking on an unprecedented level. In their last 15 games, the Sixers have posted a staggering offensive rating of 121.8, tying the second-best in the NBA in such span. They’ve also scored above the league average points per game of 114.2, 17 times in the last 24 games! Meaning to beat the Sixers, you also have to score above the average amount of points you’d normally score.

Since getting healthy again, guys like Tyrese Maxey are excelling in their roles astoundingly. Maxey is averaging 20.3 points per game since he’s come back at the beginning of January. Killing the team’s second units have been key for Maxey and the Sixers’ success, as he becomes extremely more efficient from the field when he comes off the bench instead of starting the game.

Considering the rest of the bench is in the top two in the league in offensive rating in their last 15 games too, it’s safe to say the energy has been contagious to the rest of the guys down the line as well.

Playoff Woes to be Challenged

Clearly, the Sixers are going to cruise into the playoffs with a homecourt advantage. The regular season wasn’t necessarily the question about the Sixers coming into the season anyway, however. With guys like James Harden and Doc Rivers leading the team, of course, the main question is going to be the playoffs.

Expectations are high now having back-to-back second-round playoff losses in a row. The Sixers organization however is looking to make some noise this year. If newfound second fiddle James Harden and the rest of the bench can keep up this type of play, just maybe they can cure some past curses that seem to haunt them wherever they go.

About Cameron Prichard

Twitter: @CameronPNBA

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