What did we say after the 76ers (14-8) eked out a buzzer-beating win last weekend in Charlotte?
That’s why the team went after Jimmy Butler.
Following a thrilling finish in Brooklyn eight days later, we’ll happily type those familiar words again:
This is why the Sixers went after Jimmy Butler.
JIMMY BUTLER ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? pic.twitter.com/TslSdPq8UP
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) November 26, 2018
From almost the exact same spot on the wing from which he drained a 3-pointer with time expiring to down the Hornets, Butler delivered his latest heroic heave Sunday at Barclays Center, hitting a go-ahead triple in isolation over Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with 00.4 seconds left in a game the Sixers spent most of the time trailing.
The Nets (8-13) threw the ball away on the ensuing sideline in-bounds play, and the Sixers emerged with a no-quit, 127-125, victory.
“Another play drawn up by Coach,” Butler said afterwards, referring to Brett Brown. “My teammates have a lot of confidence in me to take shots late, hopefully I make shots late as well.
“I got to the spot that I wanted to, raised up, and knocked it down.”
Butler poured in a season-high 34 points. He played all 12 minutes of the decisive fourth quarter, and was perfect from the field, hitting each of his seven shots in the frame, including four 3-pointers.
Not to be overlooked, it was Butler, a four-time All-NBA defender, whose scramble for a loose set up a jump tap that led to his eventual game-winner.
Brown quickly called a timeout, and essentially told his club, What we did in Charlotte, let’s do it again.
“The TVs are going to replay his shot,” said Brown. “I hope they go a few seconds earlier, and see him dive on the floor, and secure a jump ball. Similar to the play he made in Charlotte where he saved [the ball] over his head and came back and made the shot, there’s another connection to his shot that he makes at the end of the game to win it for us.
“He was massive down the stretch.”
Before a JJ Redick (15 pts) 3-pointer made it 121-120 with 63 seconds to go, the Sixers hadn’t held a lead since the score was 2-0. The Sixers and Brooklyn then traded baskets on the next four possessions, a sequence that culminated with Butler’s winner.
Joel Embiid registered 32 points and 12 rebounds in Sunday’s triumph, the Sixers’ fifth in their last six tries. The 30-point, 10-rebound showing was his fourth in five outings, and NBA-high 13th overall this season.
Ben Simmons added 13 points, five boards, and nine assists, while Landry Shamet established a new career-high with 16 points.
Throughout the evening, the Sixers had trouble corralling the backcourt tandem of D’Angelo Russell (38 pts) and Spencer Dinwiddie (31 pts), so much so that the Sixers’ deficit at one point reached 20.
But the Sixers’ defense clamped down when it mattered most, limiting the to a single basket, from Dinwiddie, in the final five minutes of regulation.
All in a Gut Call
Twenty seconds to go, loose ball around the foul line, and there’s Jimmy Butler in a tie-up with Chester’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
Butler wins the ensuing tap, and Brett Brown calls for his final timeout, with 10.2 seconds to play.
The memory of Butler’s clutch 3-pointer in Charlotte on November 17th was understandably fresh on Brown’s mind. Still, there was an internal debate brewing.
Here’s how Brown explained his decision to call Butler’s number in isolation again.
“When you’re on the sidelines you’re always struggling – do you let play continue? We secured the jump ball. [The play] was broken. The ball was in Jimmy’s hands and Joel Embiid was on his side.
“Inevitably it comes down to gut feeling. Do you feel like you have something that’s pretty good that you’re not going to get anything better? There’s no book that tells you how to do that, that’s a read – it’s a gut feel. It’s a real-time decision, and I felt that we just didn’t have the organization or the floor spots that I wanted.
“When we called the timeout, it didn’t take long to decide what we were going to do. We had a reference point from Charlotte, and we did it. We changed a little bit to get JJ Redick in that strong corner. We know JJ’s man is not going to help. Jimmy did what Jimmy does and has done in front of us before.”
An example of a good gut helping produce a good outcome.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) November 26, 2018
Fresh off adding another rise-to-the-occasion performance to his still brief Sixers resume, Jimmy Butler once again found himself the center of attention.
The only catch was, he didn’t sound like a guy who wanted the spotlight all to himself.
“To tell you the truth, it could have been anybody,” Butler said, when asked about delivering his second-game winner in seven appearances with the Sixers. “They do have a lot of confidence in me, but I got so much more confidence in those guys. They really got us back in the game. Joel [Embiid] throwing the ball off the backboard, and everybody else making shots. It’s so fun to play that way. Then, in the end, I just made one play out of the many that were already made.”
But not every player gets called upon to win a game. Butler’s now done it twice in a relatively short period of time.
“Listen, credit to them,” said Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson. “Obviously, Butler’s shot at the end was a heck of a shot. We got our best defender [Rondae Hollis-Jefferson] on him, so be it.”
After yet another Spencer Dinwiddie jumper, this one a 3-pointer to make it 118-105, Brooklyn, with five and a half minutes remaining in regulation, the prospects weren’t looking too promising for the Sixers.
From there, the Sixers closed Sunday’s contest on a 22-10 run. During that stretch, they converted 7 of 10 field goal attempts, while going 3 for 4 from the outside.
The Sixers also ended the game holding Brooklyn to 4 for 11 overall, in addition to out-rebounding the Nets by six.
Ben Simmons attributed the game-changing turnaround to attitude.
“I think it was being desperate, playing desperate. We needed that win. Obviously coming off a loss to the Cavaliers wasn’t something we wanted. We already had a loss [in Brooklyn] at the start of the season, so we wanted to come here and make sure we got the job done.”
The shift in mindset was critical.
Fresh kicks for the big man.
After a short trip to Brooklyn, and two idle days without games, the Sixers will be back in action Wednesday, when they host the New York Knicks (6-14) for the first of three more in a row at The Center. Led by first-year head coach David Fizdale, New York continues to play on without Kristaps Porzingis, who sidelined from an ACL tear suffered last February. The Knicks enjoyed a strong start to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, beating the Boston Celtics and New Orleans Pelicans in consecutive contests.