It was a dramatic win last night for the Sixers against the post-Lob City LA Clippers. After getting out to a first-quarter advantage that ballooned to double digits by the half, the Sixers fought off a Clips surge - led, of course, by our old friend Lou Williams - that slimmed the lead down to two, before the Sixers made a couple huge plays to stretch the margin back out, and Sweet Lou finally went sour. The Sixers eventually won by double digits, 112-98.
T.J. McConnell was magnificent off the bench, with 17 points, eight assists, zero turnovers and the biggest shot of the game. Joel Embiid persevered through a lousy shooting night (9-22 FG, 1-6 3PT) and a frightening late-game knee tweak to still post MVP numbers (29-16-2, with three blocks and just two turnovers) in the victory. The Sixers are now 28-25, still just eighth in the crowded East, but only a couple of games out of home-court advantage, 2.5 games back of the fourth-seeded Wizards before Sunday's action.
There's a lot to talk about from this game, mostly good (the Sixers are 11-6 with a +6.5 point differential in 2018) and some not so good (did the Sixers play it loose with Embiid's health again?). But I wanna talk about something we don't talk about nearly enough with these Sixers: just how damn consistent Dario Saric's production has been this season.
Dario didn't have an amazing scoring night against the Clippers. After a strong first quarter, he was mostly neutralized, ending up with just 10 points on 4 of 12 shooting, though he also had nine boards and five assists to go with it all. But getting to 10 in the scoring column extends a remarkable streak for The Homie - he's now scored in double figures in his last 33 games, a streak that extends back to the team's Nov. 29 win against the Wizards.
That's an incredible run for Saric, who has proven a rare reliable scorer for these Sixers, who don't always know what they're getting from their supporting cast. To put it in perspective: over that stretch since late November, JJ Redick has scored in single figures three times, Ben Simmons has done it six times and Robert Covington has done it 11 times. Amir Johnson has done it 30 times. The only other Sixer to go without a single-digit scoring night over that span is, of course, Embiid, who hasn't missed double digits since December 2016, when he scored nine against the Raptors.
But, of course, there is a key difference between Embiid and Saric: Over that span since late November, Embiid has missed eight games, and going back to that nine-point night against Toronto in December 2016, he's missed 52. Saric has sat just one game since the Wizards win (a December home loss to the Lakers), and only two games total since coming over from Andalou Efes - easily earning The Homie the Sixers' gold star for best attendance in the post-Our Once and Always Dark Lord Sam Hinkie era.
He wasn't always this consistent a scorer, though. In his rookie year, he missed double digits 28 times, and he began his sophomore season without a double-digit scoring night until the team's sixth game - including a goose egg against Houston, the only scoreless night of Saric's young NBA career. But since he hit his groove post-Thanksgiving last season, he's just kept rolling, in large part due to an improved three-point stroke (40 percent on five attempts a game over that stretch after converting just 31 percent of his four attempts a game his rookie season) and sparkling free-throw shooting (91 percent, up from 78 percent his rookie year). That extra couple points a night from his shooting uptick seems to make all the difference in Dario's baseline production, and now you can just pencil him in for about 15 points a night no matter what.
Saric won't be participating in All-Star Saturday or Sunday, he won't figure in year-end awards consideration and he won't be one of the first three players who anyone talks about when previewing what should hopefully be the Sixers' first playoff appearance in five years this April. But they wouldn't be in this position without him, and given how much he's already improved in just a season and a half in the NBA, Sixers fans should be as excited about where The Homie goes from here as anything.