The 76ers hosted an NBA game that was more like a pep rally for the Eagles. And they did what the 20,636 in attendance hope the Eagles will do to the New England Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowl LII.
The Sixers defeated the Miami Heat, 103-97, on Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The victory enabled the Sixers (25-24) to snap their three-game losing streak. It marked the second straight loss and fourth in six games for the Heat (29-23).
Ben Simmons finished with a game-high 20 points to go with six rebounds and five assists. Joel Embiid added 17 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks, while Dario Saric had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Twelve of Saric’s points came in the first quarter.
This game also marked the 100th career victory for Sixers coach Brett Brown. His record stands at 100-277.
But this game was all about the environment created for the Eagles.
Last week, the Sixers changed their social assets/logos to midnight green to support the Eagles in the Super Bowl. But they decided to go “all in” Friday in what they dubbed their “Brotherly Love” campaign.
“I think it’s awesome,” Brown said. “We all travel the city, and you just feel it. Sam Brown [Brett’s son] has his Eagles shirt on today and is going to a party on Sunday to watch the game. It’s just great for the city. It’s an amazing thing for the city.”
The first 10,000 fans in attendance received midnight green “Brotherly Love” T-shirts with Sixers and Eagles emblems on them. In addition to having green lighting and signage, there were “Brotherly Love” messages throughout the center.
The team had a special video of the Sixers and Eagles before the Sixers starters were introduced. The Sixers cheerleaders and dunk squad led the crowd in singing “Fly, Eagles, Fly” while waving green pom-poms during a timeout with 7 minutes, 5 seconds left in the half.
Team staff members wore green, while mascot Franklin had on Eagles gear. The scoreboard showed a fan with an Eagles logo on the back of his head. There were Eagles-centric digital and social assets during the game at the arena. And the fans, many who were wearing Eagles jerseys, gave E-A-G-L-E-S chants throughout the game. Then, with less than a minute to play, the crowd chanted “We want Brady” in reference to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Riding the electricity, the Sixers built a commanding 28-point lead in the fourth quarter. This game didn’t lack intrigue, though. The Heat pulled within four points (101-97) on a three-pointer by Episcopal Academy product Wayne Ellington (16) with 24.9 seconds left. But Justin Anderson gave the Sixers the six-point victory after his dunk with 3.7 seconds left.
“It’s a time you feel like it’s a little bit of an empty win,” Brown said. “I get upset for myself for feeling like that. I’m not walking on a plane, [saying] ‘Oh, that’s great.’ I’m not feeling like that. I feel like we had an opportunity that was very dominant for a long time [before the Heat cut into the lead.]”
The Sixers will look to build off their victory on Saturday in Indianapolis against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Embiid is scheduled to play in that game, marking the first time he’ll play in back-to-back games during his career.
“I feel like going out and playing another game right now,” Embiid said. “But I’m excited about tomorrow.”
The All-Star felt he’s been ready to play in both games of back-to-backs, but said the team had other plans.
“Now, I’m going to feel like an NBA player,” he said.
Embiid and Anderson will attend the Super Bowl in Minnesota. They’ll fly from Indianapolis on Sunday morning.
Simmons plans to watch the game from the Philly area.
“I think I will be at home or at somebody’s house,” he said. “This is actually one of the first Super Bowl I had a day off to watch it.”
On this night, he outplayed Heat point guard Goran Dragic, who got the nod over him Thursday as an all-star replacement for Washington Wizards point guard John Wall. Dragic finished with 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting. He also had one assist and two turnovers in 23 minutes.
Simmons was asked if he felt like an all-star before the game.
“If I was an all-star I would be on the all-star team,” he said.
How disappointing is it to be in that game?
“It’s a little frustrating,” he said. “But if you look back at how many rookies have made it, it’s not one of those things that makes or breaks your career. I got to focus on the team first of all. Beside that whatever comes my way, I’m grateful.”
Simmons said he’s elated to play with Saric and Embiid on Team World of the Rising Stars Challenge at on Feb. 16 at the NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.