In a lot of ways, it was a commendable effort from the 76ers last night against the Golden State Warriors. Despite being undermanned and badly outclassed, the Sixers fought hard against the teams' talent gap and managed to keep it... well, maybe not close exactly, but respectable at the very least, with the Dubs never able to achieve total escape velocity. They ultimately won 119-108, but it was the kind of game that makes you think yeah, but when reinforcements return, we're really gonna be humming. Then, of course, you look at the Sixers bench and go "...oh."
A week after Nerlens Noel was traded for an expired Applebee's gift card and Ben Simmons was strapped to a pair of mattresses and sent to his room for the season's remainder, the 76ers announced that Joel Embiid was "out indefinitely" with further knee swelling, a message interpreted by most Sixers smarties as JoJo likely being out for the year. As with Simmons, it's better to know now and make peace with it than have to deal with the news being newly frustrating with each period of further two-to-four-game absences. And as with Simbo, it's really just kinda... c'mon, man, is this EVER gonna end?
Last night was a good demonstration of why when you have two rim-protecting centers on your roster and one of them is always hurt, you probably hold onto the second one as long as you can. The Warriors somehow only shot 6-29 from three at the WFC -- including 0-11 from bombing GOAT Stephen Curry -- but they paraded to the basket, with virtually no resistance from the Sixers' bigs. (Richaun Holmes did have three blocks, which made him something like 3-19 at the defensive rim in this one.)
Of course, trade defenders would argue that that's sort of the point for this season, that we want to lose games like this and continue ascending the lottery hierarchy, as this is a lost season anyway at this point. Fair enough, but the Sixers still have seasons to play after this one, and how confident are you in Joel Embiid playing 50 games a year anytime soon? This is one of the biggest reasons why the "you don't pay a backup center 15-20 million a year" case was so fallacious -- we weren't paying for an emergency understudy, we were paying for someone who was probably going to end up starring a whole lot. And now we don't have either, and that's not great.
At least we still have Dario, who continues to impress more with every outing: a 21-7-7 in this one, even with his jumper looking like someone constantly trying to remind himself how exactly shooting works. (He's down to 31% from deep now, which will eventually be a problem, but given how his shooting improved every year overseas, you have to hope he'll eventually be able to do the same in the States.) And kudos once more to defensive monster Robert Covington, whose four steals in this one now give him seven games with at least three swipes, tied with Rajon Rondo for the longest streak of the last three seasons. Those two dudes alone make the team worth watching, even when Jahlil Okafor has nearly as many combined fouls and turnovers (12) as he does minutes played (17).
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The Sixers' 29th game of the season against the Miami Heat comes up on Wednesday, so expect Hassan Whiteside to put up a 40-30 and get to sit most of the fourth quarter. It might not officially be time yet to call it a season and see if it's not too late to get excited about NCAA conference tournament play, but it's getting there.