After becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, Markelle Fultz got quite the unique shower from his teammates in the locker room.
“They poured strawberry milk, chocolate milk, water,” Fultz said. “They drowned me with everything, but it’s all love and appreciation.”
It was a night of celebration for Fultz and the Sixers, as the team clinched the No. 3 seed and a first-round matchup against the Heat with its 16th straight win, 130-95, over the Bucks Wednesday (see observations). Fultz, who posted 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in 25 minutes, was mobbed by his teammates after grabbing his 10th rebound with 1:12 left to seal the accomplishment.
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Fultz was also spurred on by the crowd at Wells Fargo Center, who stuck around during garbage time, cheering the rookie’s every move and chanting “Fultz” in a Philadelphia variation of the Vikings’ “Skol” chant.
“It’s unbelievable,” Fultz said. “That’s the support I’ve been getting all year. Going through what I’ve been through, they’ve been like that all year, just being there, supporting me, boosting my confidence, and that’s why I love it.”
With Brett Brown confirming pregame that he intends to stick with Fultz in the rotation during the postseason, Fultz showed Wednesday night some of the ways he could help the Sixers.
He pushed the pace aggressively in his first stint, finding Justin Anderson for two long-range jumpers, converting on a pair of fast-break layups and leading an unstoppable Sixers’ offense. By the time he checked out early in the second quarter, the Sixers led by 31 points.
While Fultz still looks more comfortable in transition than in half-court offense, he seems to be growing in confidence with his decision-making. But Fultz insists he’s always had faith in his ability.
“I always believed in myself,” Fultz said. “It was just a matter of going out there, enjoying myself, having fun and playing confident.”
Since JJ Redick was sidelined with lower-back tightness, Brown mainly paired Fultz in the backcourt with T.J. McConnell, who finished with 16 points and seven assists. While Fultz has taken some of McConnell’s minutes recently (see story), McConnell said he enjoys playing with the rookie.
“I’m doing whatever the coach asks me to do,” McConnell said. “I love playing with Markelle, I love playing with Ben. Any way I can get on the floor and play, that’s what I’m going to do. Anything to help us win.”
McConnell’s attitude is not an outlier on the unselfish Sixers. Brown pointed to the moment in which the team rushed to celebrate Fultz’s achievement as the highlight of the night, and as evidence of the unity this team has heading into the postseason.
“If you said what was the most impressive thing of the night, that’s mine,” Brown said. “To see his teammates react to Markelle Fultz was special. I think it’s a snapshot into who these guys are. I think it’s a real-time example when you hear me say, ‘Oh, they play together, they coexist, this and that’ — that’s real. That doesn’t require a coach throwing out some math. There’s a human side to that which is special.”