By Glen Ivol
For the first time in 68 games, Markelle Fultz graced Sixers fan with his presence on the court. I repeat, Markelle played in his just his fifth game this year. In 14 minutes of action, Fultz scored 10 points, recorded 8 assists, grabbed 4 boards, and was a +16 on the night. He showed very little signs of rust aside from his one airball and this could be HUGE for the Sixers, but more on that in a minute. For Fultz, who has had such a rollercoaster of a ride this year, he finally got his second chance he’s been waiting for. He entered the game to a standing ovation and proceeded to show off his skills that team loved when they made the trade up to number one to pick him.
In terms of what this means for the Sixers, the east is more wide-open than ever this year and the Sixers had the best wild card remaining of any team in the conference: a reigning number one overall pick whose skillset matches their needs perfectly. The Sixers have climbed all the way to a tie for sixth in net rating, +3.2 per 100 possessions. Even more impressive, since February 1st, they are ranked fourth in the league at +7.5 per 100 possessions. However, they have been riding their top five ranked defense and drift to the middle of the pack on offense. Their combo of Embiid, Simmons, Saric, Redick and Covington has caught some steam recently but something has been missing. They needed someone who can score off the dribble, break down the defense and not have a fear with the ball in their hands - when the game slows down in the playoffs this was going to been clearly seen. Enter Fultz. His ability to score at any level, create in one-on-one’s using the dribble or rising up, that's what the Sixers needed. With nine games left to iron out kinks of re-entering Fultz into the rotation, anything is possible. All I know is, they’re only game behind the Cavs for the three seed with a heavyweight matchup now emerging April 6th in the Wells Fargo Center.
(Editor’s note: all stats courtesy of NBA.com)
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