76ers

Bad timing to be without Joel Embiid

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Bad timing to be without Joel Embiid

This would not be the best time for the Sixers to be without Joel Embiid.

His status moving forward is uncertain as he battles back tightness. Embiid sat out Tuesday's loss to the Kings and could miss their next two games against the Raptors, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Embiid is continuing to receive treatment, and as of Wednesday morning, no official decision had been announced on his availability.

It would not come as a surprise if Embiid missed additional time. He played 49 minutes in Friday's triple-overtime loss to the Thunder — that's basically two games worth of playing time. Embiid clocked those major minutes one game after logging 39 against the Timberwolves in OT and two games after sitting out against the Pelicans because of the back issue. 

The team is proceeding with caution, as expected. The goal is the playoffs, and while the Sixers need to win every game they can at this point in the season, they also will need Embiid healthy enough to be on the court down the stretch.

If Embiid is not a go against the Raptors, the Sixers' already-challenging opponent becomes that much more difficult. The 20-8 Raptors have won nine of their last 10 games. The Sixers, on the other hand, have dropped seven of their last eight.

Others stepping up
There is no way to duplicate the impact Embiid makes, and it's just as hard to fill the void of his 24.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. The Sixers knew going into this season Embiid would not be available every game, and so his teammates have to step up. This is an opportunity for players like Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Robert Covington to be more aggressive and consistent in the starting unit. (JJ Redick's status is TBD after leaving Tuesday's game because of his hamstring.) See more on the need for the offense here.

An Embiid-less game also requires the bench to amp up its energy and try to contain any lead the starters build.

Limiting backcourt duo
When you think Raptors, you think Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. And the Sixers certainly will be thinking of them, too. They have learned firsthand how the pair of guards can easily run up the score. DeRozan dropped 30 points, including 14 from the line, in their first meeting. Philadelphia native Lowry averaged over 20 points at the Wells Fargo Center last season. The pair is combining for nearly 40 points per game this season.

Protecting the paint
The Raptors have averaged 54.0 points in the paint in their last three wins, and rank fourth in the NBA on the season (48.4). The Sixers, meanwhile, gave up 48 points to the Kings in that area Tuesday. They will have to be mindful of Jonas Valanciunas, who left their last meeting early (ankle). The center is coming off a 13-point, 16-rebound double-double in the Raptors' last game. 

Winning at home
The Sixers have to take advantage of every game they play at the Wells Fargo Center. They have the energy of a hungry home crowd behind them, an arena full of fans eager to play the sixth-man role in a win. The need for a home win is heightened by the fact the Sixers will play the following game in Toronto, a challenging road environment where the Raptors are an impressive 11-1 this season.

Raptors continue to take care of business at home

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Raptors continue to take care of business at home

TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry scored nine of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, DeMar DeRozan added 21 and the Toronto Raptors beat San Antonio 86-83 on Friday night to snap a four-game losing streak against the Spurs.

Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 11 rebounds as the Raptors improved to 17-3 at home, the second-best home record in the NBA behind San Antonio's mark of 19-2.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 14 rebounds, Pau Gasol scored 15 points and Patty Mills had 13 as San Antonio lost for the fourth time in six road games. The Spurs are 11-15 away from home.

It had been more than two years since Toronto last beat San Antonio. The Raptors won 97-94 at home on Dec. 9, 2015.

San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili missed his second straight game because of a sore right thigh. Ginobili returned to Texas after the Spurs won at Brooklyn on Wednesday (see full recap).

Beal, Oubre spark Wizards’ win over Pistons
DETROIT -- Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre Jr. had 26 points each, and the Washington Wizards scored 45 points in the third quarter before holding on for a 122-112 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

The Pistons cut a 20-point second-half deficit to four in the fourth quarter, but John Wall made a big 3-pointer to put the Wizards up 107-100. Oubre added a four-point play a few possessions later to push Washington's lead to nine.

Andre Drummond had 14 points, 21 rebounds and eight assists for the Pistons, who have lost four straight.

Both teams were struggling coming into the game. The Wizards lost by 24 at Charlotte on Wednesday, and they fell behind by 15 in the first quarter at Detroit. It was tied at 46 at halftime, though (see full recap).

Nets edge Heat to snap 5-game home skid
NEW YORK -- DeMarre Carroll scored 26 points, Spencer Dinwiddie had 15 and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Miami Heat 101-95 on Friday night.

Brooklyn snapped a five-game losing skid at Barclays Center and a seven-game home losing streak to the Heat.

Caris LeVert and Joe Harris each added 12 points for the Nets. D'Angelo Russell played 14 minutes and went 0-for-5 from the field for Brooklyn in his first action after missing 32 games following left knee surgery.

Hassan Whiteside had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and Goran Dragic scored 17 points for the Heat.

LeVert made an acrobatic layup to give the Nets a 95-91 lead with 57.8 seconds remaining and then made a step-back jumper to ice the game at 97-91 (see full recap).

Is a rival upset with Embiid's ASG starter nod?

Is a rival upset with Embiid's ASG starter nod?

While Joel Embiid was sharing his first All-Star nod with his teammates and deciding to move on from his former crush, at least one person wasn’t happy that the Sixers’ center was tabbed as a starter.

Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis feels like he should have garnered that final frontcourt spot in the Eastern Conference.

“Players know,” he said, per the New York Daily News. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

True, Porzingis had more of the players’ support as he finished third in the East in that category compared to Embiid in fourth. 

However, Embiid had the trump card with a pair of third-place finishes in both media and fan voting while Porzingis came in fourth. The fan vote was the main key, as it accounted for 50 percent of the overall tally.

“I feel very blessed to be in this type of position,” Embiid said Thursday. “Thank all the fans out there for the support. It’s been a tough couple of years and I really appreciate it — everybody out there, everybody around me, the whole team, the whole organization, the fans especially, for making this happen. We can only get better from here.”

If Embiid is going to get even better, look out. He’s already averaging 23.9 points (48.7 percent shooting), 11.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.9 blocks per game this season. Oh yeah, he also has the Sixers with a 21-20 record and sitting in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, Porzingis’ overall numbers have gone down every month this season. He’s currently putting up 23.6 points (43.4 percent shooting), 6.9 boards, 1.2 assists and 2.4 blocks a night. And the Knicks have lost 11 of their last 15 games to fall to 20-25.

“Everybody has their own opinion,” Porzingis said. “Fans are one thing. It is what it is. There are a lot of things I could have done better also. It is what it is.”