After an avalanche of injuries deprived them of their stars, the 8-8 Sixers as well as the fans weren’t expecting much from next few games. But after Embiid’s victorious return on Monday, the Sixers surprisingly have now a 12-9 record. So, before gearing up for a though stretch of games, let’s look back on those last five games to know what allowed this undermanned team to compete this well and how it could (should) change the course of the Sixers’ season.
Milton unleashed! After a few shaky seasons and playing only a low amount of minutes to start the year, Shake Milton fully took on the opportunity and found his shooting touch back at the perfect time, leading to 141 points scored in 6 games on elite efficiency. Let’s just hope that this offensive assertiveness will help him being a constant contributor off the bench once the injured come back. His one-letter-away-namesake De’Anthony Melton has also been nothing short of amazing as our Swiss-knife. After this stretch of games, think it’s not an exaggeration to say that he’s been the “purest” positive thing about the Sixers this year. The ultimate role player.
De’Anthony Melton currently has the 5th best defensive rating in the NBA.
He’s also averaging 37% from three on 5.3 attempts per game.
The perfect 3 & D guy
— Sixers Nation (@PHLSixersNation) November 29, 2022
Georges Niang has also been a major contributor to the Sixers’ recent dynamic. The Minivan is having a career-best season in points per game, three-points attempts AND efficiency. His chubby look and jerky walk make his late game deliveries and takes to the basket even more entertaining. He plays with a winning spirit, he’s a forceful presence in the team and he never backs down from any exchange (even against Kevin Durant)… in other terms, he gets Philly! I still doubt that he can realistically be in the rotation come playoffs time given his physical limitations, but he surely is a positive and fun player in the regular season.
Georges Niang: Perfect for Philly 💀
"I think Philly fans and people, they look at me, & what I look like, & they’re like, ‘Oh I can probably be that guy, & be on the court!’
The love they show is unconditional. There’s nothing like Philadelphia." pic.twitter.com/vwP8xQVTYN
— Lauren Rosen (@LaurenMRosen) November 26, 2022
The most important factor that stood out during those games is that Paul Reed finally showed some consistency and transformed his potential into high-volume outings. After an underwhelming start to the season, the four games without Embiid were everything BBall Paul needed to delight us with some really nice performances. His rebounding abilities and always-active hands make him an energizing and impacting defender. The fouling issues are still glaring and that’s probably the inevitable downside of his go-for-it defensive approach, addressing this recklessness should be the priority. His improved understanding of the angles in his screens coverage was really noteworthy and offensively, he showed a lot of maturity while keeping his explosive nature. Time to fully take on the decisive back-up center role!
To finish with this impressive group, Doc Rivers often told us that the Sixers’ aspirations rely on one thing this year: each player being a star in his role. For the first time this season, that was precisely the case. Besides the players mentioned earlier, Tobias masterfully powered the offense with timely self-made baskets, P.J. Tucker successfully took on the hardest defensive assignments and Furkan preciously netted shots. Doc also needs to be shown appreciation for his impressive ability to win with less talent.
The Sixers currently sit at the fifth spot in the eastern conference. They will soon begin a determinant sequence of games in which they will be helped by the return of James Harden and the emergence of a rediscovered depth. These last few games have been the most enjoyable in a long time and it feels like new breath has risen in the City of Brotherly Love. Let’s hope that it will guide us to the promised land! Go Sixers.