The 76ers will tell you that their current roster, as it stands, is good enough to secure a postseason berth.
That’s why they decided against making any moves at Thursday’s trade deadline. If Friday night was any indication, standing pat might have been a great decision.
The Sixers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans, 100-82, in front of a sellout crowd of 20,489 at Wells Fargo Center. The 82 points were a season low for the Pelicans (28-26), losers of three straight and five of six games.
The Sixers improved to 27-25 and gained a game over the Detroit Pistons for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot with 30 games left.
“It’s just up to us now,” Ben Simmons said. “We know what we need to do to get there. So it’s all about locking in.”
The rookie point guard, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, and JJ Redick were definitely locked in. Embiid, who was playing with a sore right ankle, and Simmons both sat out the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Redick and Saric each left after 1 minute, 32 seconds of the final quarter.
Dominating Anthony Davis, Embiid showed why he was voted a starter in Feb. 18 NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles. The center finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds for his 27th double-double of the season.
Davis, another all-star starter, finished with 14 points on 6 of 19 shooting. He went into the matchup averaging 26.8 points.
“He’s a really good player,” Embiid said of Davis. “When you come into this type of game, especially when you know that he’s one of the guys that you get compared to as far as who’s the best big man in the league, you always want to get the best of him. But I have a lot of respect for him.”
Embiid will be a game-time decision for Saturday night’s home game against the Los Angeles Clippers due to the ankle issue. He said his ankle was “pretty painful” on Friday.
Simmons had another performance worthy of receiving an all-star berth. He finished with 10 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists before exiting the game for good with 4 minutes, 10 seconds left in the third quarter. He was one rebound and two assists shy of recording his sixth triple-double of the season.
Sixers coach Brett Brown was aware of that. But the coach said he wasn’t going to bring Simmons back in to chase a triple-double.
“That’s not how I sort of see the world,” Brown said. “I get it, but the risk-reward with anything [bad] happening is stuff you couldn’t sleep at night with. It’s irresponsible.”
However, the leading rookie-of-the-year candidate was passed over three times as an all-star game injury replacement. The final two replacements were Miami Heat point guard Goran Dragic and Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker.
“I don’t really know what an all-star is anymore,” Simmons said. “I mean, if it was about win-lose, you picked Dragic obviously and you pick Kemba, whose team is [four] wins under us. It is what it is, but my stats don’t lie.”
Simmons will, however, participate in the NBA All-Star Weekend’s Rising Stars Challenge along with Embiid and Saric.
On this night, Saric had 24 points on 8 for 11 shooting. Meanwhile, Redick added 15 points while making 3 of 6 three-pointers.
Embiid (eight) and Simmons (four) combined to score the Sixers’ first 12 points. Saric got on the scoreboard with 8 minutes, 23 seconds left in the first quarter to make it a 14-2 game. He, Embiid and Simmons went on to score the Sixers’ first 28 points before Redick’s layup gave them an 18-point cushion (30-12) with 1:37 left in the quarter.
The foursome combined to score all 32 of the Sixers’ first-quarter points and 51 of their 56 points at the half. With those four leading the way, the Sixers had a commanding 32-point lead (84-52) with 1:04 left in the third quarter. They extended their lead to 35 points (89-54) early in the fourth quarter.
Delaware 87ers post player Emeka Okafor is on a 10-day contract with the Pelicans. He finished with four points, eight rebounds, a game-high four blocks and two assists. Former Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday finished with nine points on 3 for 11 shooting.
Sixers legend Bobby Jones was the bell ringer before the game. The team had unveiled a sculpture of him outside their practice facility in Camden earlier in the day. The forward averaged 10.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks during his eight seasons in Philadelphia. He won the NBA’s award for sixth man of the year in 1983, the season he helped the Sixers win the NBA title. The defensive standout also made two of his four all-star appearances as a Sixer. The organization retired his No. 24 jersey in 1986.