Anchored by Joel Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers have thrived in Nick Nurse’s hyperactive offensive system. As always for the Sixers, the question is whether their balanced attack can yield success in the playoffs.
Looking to winnow the double-digit 76ers lead, the Trail Blazers Jabari Walker sprinted into the open court off a Joel Embiid turnover with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter of their October 29th match. Despite the momentary advantage thanks to the transition break, Walker found the paint walled off by a trio of retreating Sixer defenders.
Suddenly caught with nowhere to go, the second year forward desperately tried to fling the ball back out towards the perimeter before Patrick Beverly returned the turnover favor, knocking the rock loose and into the hands of De’Anthony Melton, who promptly fired a crosscourt pass to a waiting Embiid who finished the sequence off with a traditional three-point play and a crotch-chop, or four, to boot.
Stretching the Philadelphia lead back to 12, ensuring his second consecutive 30-point performance, and providing yet another reason for the Sunday night crowd to break out the “MVP” chants, the play was the perfect example of the Sixers’ approach on the court, thus far, as well as the era of good feelings that seems to have surrounded the squad through the season’s first dozen games.
“Now and then, I might kind of lose myself,” Embiid told reporters following the match, laughing as he described his WWE callback. “Third game of the season, home opener, love playing in front of the fans, especially in Philly. I don’t think I would have missed the first game of the season in Philly.”
For a franchise that entered the year with better odds of being crowned the most dysfunctional team in the NBA than the league champs, the success of the organization’s offensive identity has been surpassed only by the vibes that have accompanied it.
“Honestly, this group has been keeping the main thing the main thing,” Tyrese Maxey said to reporters near the start of the season. “Everything’s been going well; the flow’s been going well. The team believes in us, the coaches believe in us, so everything’s going great.”
Less than 48 hours after their home-opening victory against Portland, the Sixers kept the good times rolling on, jettisoning the perennial malcontent James Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Nicolas Batum, Robert Covington, and a bevy of draft assets that increase Philadelphia’s flexibility moving forward.
Still, while the Halloween night trade officially ended Harden’s tenure in Philadelphia, the team’s start to the season showed the organization had stylistically moved on from their shooting guard long before that.