The Sixers eked out another win Friday night, this time at the expense of the Orlando Magic. There was some concern before the game as the Sixers would be without Ben Simmons and will continue to be for multiple weeks to come.
The Sixers could have easily folded and it would not have been exactly surprising but they chose to fight. An encouraging sign of things to come hopefully.
When Simmons initially went down it was clear that several players would have to step up in his absence. Al Horford was at the top of the list and he finally came through tonight.
Al Horford has long been scrutinized for his performance as a Sixer. Specifically, his performance relative to his extremely generous contract. Horford step up tonight though and showed that not only can he coexist with Joel Embiid, but the two bigs can thrive on the same roster.
Now, it certainly isn’t as cut and dry as that but Horford is capable of playing at a high level next to Embiid. Finishing with 21 points and nine rebounds, Horford found a way to play his game without limiting Embiid (23 points, 13 rebounds).
It can’t be overstated how important it was to see the two bigs blend on the court. The Sixers will have to rely heavily on both of them if they are to have a chance in the playoffs.
Welcome to the Sixers Alec Burks
One of Elton Brand trade deadline acquisitions paid off in a big way tonight. Alec Burks saw extended minutes for the first time since the seeding games began. In those 27 minutes, Burks put on an absolute clinic scoring 22 points on 3/7 three-point shooting.
The Sixers needed this scoring output with or without Ben Simmons as the Sixers bench struggled to score during the first three seeding games.
Burks has been off to a strong start since the season resumed and should be rewarded for his efforts. His playing time should not dip below 25 minutes (baring injury or foul trouble) his scoring is too important.
There are few players on the Sixers who can drive and shoot the way Burks does, he can thrive in a true sixth man role. Brett Brown must remember this game as a reason to play Burks more often (because he needs one somehow).
The Sixers are right back at it against the Portland Trailblazers tomorrow. The Blazers will be highly motivated as they are only one game behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the 8th seed in the West.
Tip-off is at 6:30 PM EST and can be viewed on NBC Sports Philadelphia or NBA TV. If you’d rather listen you can, as always, at 97.5 FM the Fanatic.
Damien Lillard and CO. will come ready so Joel Embiid and the Sixers must prepare for a fight.
Mandatory Credit: Ashley Landis/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports