Before Wednesday’s 119-105 win over the visiting Memphis Grizzlies that improved the 76ers’ record to 40-30, coach Brett Brown was asked about a potential letdown against a downtrodden team.
The Grizzlies are now 19-52 and will make a serious run at the top pick in the NBA draft.
The thought of taking even a struggling team like Memphis lightly was something foreign to Brown.
“It’s the NBA, I have been on the other side,” Brown said before the game. “We were Memphis for a while, most of the years I have been here.”
The Sixers were like Memphis in Brown’s first four years, but they aren’t now as they will likely head to the postseason for the first time since 2012.
One reason the Sixers are not only virtually assured a playoff spot, but are fighting for home court advantage in the first round, is that they have taken care of business when it comes to facing the NBA’s weaker teams.
The win over Memphis improved the Sixers’ record to 20-7 against teams that currently have sub-.500 records.
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) March 22, 2018
Not all the wins were as convincing as Wednesday’s. The final score was a little deceiving because Memphis outscored the Sixers 36-20 in the fourth quarter when the game had long been decided.
The Sixers’ starters didn’t need to play the entire fourth quarter. This was different from some recent wins over bottom-feeders, such as Friday’s 120-116 victory over Brooklyn and a 118-110 victory against New York Knicks the night before.
“The last couple of games we have been playing non-playoff teams and coming out sloppy and then we had to take over the fourth quarter, so tonight was good to see that kind of change of mentality and we did better,” said Joel Embiid, who had 14 points and seven rebounds.
The overall mentality has been to not takes teams lightly, which accounts for the .741 winning percentage against the sub-.500 squads.
“For us, we should beat them by 20-30, whatever it is and that should be our mentality when we step on the court against teams like that,” said Ben Simmons who had 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in just under 25 minutes.
The Sixers had a little extra incentive against Memphis since the Grizzlies won, 105-101, at home when the teams played on Jan. 22.
“Just because we were playing Memphis doesn’t mean we came in with the mindset that this was going to be an easy game,” said Robert Covington, who scored 15 points and hit 3 of 4 three-pointers. “We had to go out and execute, see what happened the first time we played them, they got away with that one.”
Brown has often talked about how competitive his team is in practice. It has translated to the games, especially the ones when it would be easy to be overconfident against out-manned opponents.
“I feel like this group has always been prideful, and for the very large majority of the season, very competitive,” Brown said. “There is an edge to this group that I like.”
He will get to see the edge against lesser opponents down the stretch as the Sixers will play eight of their final 12 games against sub-.500 teams.