Sixers Weekly Observations: Making Sense of an Especially Eventful Week

Apologies in advance for the familiar refrain, but it's true - it was a busy past seven days for the Sixers.

The team stands at 26-14 after a 3-1 week, with a 34-point loss in Portland followed by wins over the Clippers (a game that featured two fights and an ejection), Suns and Mavs.

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Just as notably, there was also plenty that happened off the court.

• We've already covered the report that Jimmy Butler has "aggressively challenged" Brett Brown and the Sixers' offense in some detail, reviewing film on how Brown is using Butler, opining that it's too early to jump to conclusions and giving you Brown's response to the report Saturday night.

For the most part, Brown's pregame comments Saturday were predictable. He adamantly downplayed the exchange with Butler, saying it was inaccurate to characterize it as "disrespectful."

The more surprising part of his press conference was the defense of his offensive system. Brown was clear that the Sixers' offense won't radically change, though he is willing to keep tweaking it for the team's benefit. If the offense is going to run through any player, however, it's Joel Embiid.  

More [pick-and-rolls] should be run, but not to the detriment of Joel Embiid and not to the detriment of some other things.

I think if you put a gun to my head and said, ‘where should our bread be buttered?' It's through Joel Embiid, and then Jimmy Butler. And JJ [Redick's] going to move and do his thing, and Ben [Simmons is] going to find his way - that's the ecosystem. That's on me to create that.

Brown is open to listening to his players, but because he has three stars with distinct strengths and weaknesses, he can't cater entirely to the requests of one if he believes it will hurt his team.

Fortunately for the Sixers, you sense Butler and Brown share a passion for winning. If that's the foundation of an intense, active dialogue that might be perceived by whoever leaked to ESPN as "disrespectful," so be it. 

• Brown has had some less than pleasant problems to deal with. When Wilson Chandler and Butler are healthy again, he's going to have a good problem, thanks to Jonah Bolden.

Over the past week, Bolden has averaged 8.0 points on 66.7 percent shooting, 6.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and a block in 20 minutes per game.

Bolden got his second straight start Saturday night vs. the Mavs, and Brown preferred him down the stretch over Mike Muscala. 

Though Bolden still makes mistakes and doesn't always look comfortable on the floor, he does a lot of things well - he can move his feet with guards, protect the rim, and run the floor, plus he has a good feel as a passer and is a decent cutter.

It would be surprising at this point if he's out of the rotation when Butler and Chandler return. The more pertinent question is what role he'll play, and whether Muscala will see some of his minutes cut to give Bolden more opportunities.

• Every one of the Sixers' wins this week was closer than it should have been.

To recap:

-The Clippers cut a 24-point deficit down to four points
-The Suns somehow trimmed a 30-point game down to a three-point game
-The Mavs came back from a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter, cutting it to four

While unforced, avoidable turnovers are part of the reason for this trend, the Sixers actually won the turnover battle vs. the Mavs, 15-10. 

Regardless of the opponent or situation, it feels like the Sixers have reverted to their early-season trend of inevitable fourth-quarter drama.

As Embiid told reporters Saturday, "Once again, we got to make the game interesting."

• Just about every game, there's a statistical milestone we can highlight for Embiid.

A few of the latest include him becoming the fastest player in Sixers history to score 3,000 points, reaching the 1,000-point mark this season, recording a season-high 42 points Wednesday in Phoenix and his league-leading 34th double-double Saturday.

To put it all in perspective, Embiid had 25 points and 12 rebounds against the Mavs and it felt like it a quiet night for him.

Simmons is doing some pretty incredible things as well, and he looks and sounds more willing to shoot jumpers than he has in the past.

He has more triple-doubles (18) in his first 120 career games than Magic Johnson, per Elias Sports Bureau

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