Markelle Fultz played in an NBA game on Monday night for the first time since October. That, regardless of Fultz’s performance, was reason for celebration in Philadelphia.
Before Fultz had even played his first minute or possession after 68 games out, Sixers fans gave the rookie a standing ovation when he checked in late in the first quarter.
And then Fultz brought them back to their feet on a few occasions throughout the night. In the fourth quarter, after a few shaky jump shots early on, Fultz shook Mason Plumlee and elevated for two mid-range jumpers that found the bottom of the net.
Viewers across the country scrutinized Fultz’s every move, and reviews were mixed. But Fultz finished with 10 points, eight assists, four rebounds and just one turnover in 14 minutes. The Sixers beat Denver, 123-104, for their seventh consecutive win. And by the end of the night, Philly fans were giddy.
Fultz’s first-half performance had been slightly – and understandably – inauspicious. On his first offensive possession, he turned the ball over. But for his first shot attempt, he rejected a screen and glided to the rim for a layup:
What everybody really cared about, though, was Fultz’s first jump shot. It was a step-back jumper, contested by Plumlee. And it didn’t even hit the rim – though Plumlee might have gotten a piece of it:
Plumlee definitely got more than a piece of Fultz’s next jumper. And the cruel person running the Nuggets’ Twitter account trolled Fultz with a little tough love:
But Fultz got the best of the Nuggets in the second half. On one of several drives to the hoop, he flipped in a circus layup:
He also blocked a Jamal Murray layup from behind in transition:
Fultz was a plus-16 for the night. He was in the game for the stretch during which the Sixers pulled away from Denver in the second half. He then returned for the final few minutes with the win in hand, and unleashed the jumpers.
And Sixers fans loved it. As Fultz prepared to enter the game one final time, Philadelphians turned their Nick “Foles” clap – which was originally the Minnesota Vikings’ “Skol” clap – into a “Fultz” clap.
Fultz! Fultz! Fultz!
Philly broke out a new version of the "Skol" cheer for Markelle. pic.twitter.com/LWwicAQrzb
— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) March 27, 2018
Fultz didn’t exactly look like the top overall pick in the draft … but of course he didn’t. His return, more than anything else, was about shaking the rust off and adapting to the speed of an NBA game. And he did that just fine.
The night was also a huge relief for all involved. Fultz’s teammates were all smiles after the game. And so was Fultz. Robert Covington doused him with water during a postgame interview:
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) March 27, 2018
Sixers coach Brett Brown had Fultz ring the Sixers’ miniature bell in the locker room after the game:
— x – Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 27, 2018
Brown announced Fultz’s return out of nowhere hours before Monday’s game. Hours later, Fultz spoke to media for the first time since October. He was questioned about the mysterious shoulder injury that kept him out for five months, and responded with complete silence.
Asked twice about his shoulder, Markelle Fultz responded with silence. Wiped his face with a towel. Ignored them.
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) March 27, 2018
But other than that, as Brown said at his postgame news conference, “the night could not have worked out better.”
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