The 76ers missed Joel Embiid’s defensive presence Tuesday night, as the seven-footer was held out for a second straight game with back soreness since playing 48 minutes in last Friday’s triple-overtime loss to the Thunder (see story).
Zach Randolph took advantage of his absence, scoring 27 points as the Sixers blew a 16-point lead and lost to the Kings, 101-95, at home (see observations).
“We were going to start him out [on Randolph],” Brett Brown said of Embiid. “We learned later this afternoon that Joel was not going to play. I think it was about [2 p.m.] that we learned that and our intention was to start Joel on Zach. I think he did a pretty good job in Sacramento with his length. I’m sure that hurt us not having that defensive matchup.”
Without Embiid, Amir Johnson, Trevor Booker and Richaun Holmes were tasked with stopping Randolph all night. The Sixers took care of the Kings’ big men on the boards, outrebounding them, 53-39, but couldn’t stop their low-post game.
Randolph started off the game hot, finishing two and-one buckets and knocking down a three-pointer in the first quarter to spark the Kings' 15-11 start. The second quarter was a different story, as the Sixers held the veteran forward scoreless.
Brown credited Holmes for the defensive spark off the bench.
“I thought Richaun did a pretty good job of battling him in the first half,” Brown said. “Physically, like moving his feet and sort of chesting up and not forcing us to get into a scramble and double-team type mode.”
Johnson helped the Sixers extend their lead at the start of the second half, finishing multiple baskets at the rim to make it 65-49. However, Randolph responded with 10 points in the period and the Kings trimmed the Sixers’ big lead to just seven points by the start of the fourth.
“[We just have to] hope he misses,” T.J. McConnell said. “He’s a really good player and he’s been doing the same thing for a long time. We had a game plan for him, but it doesn’t always work out.
“Like I said, he’s a really good player, so he’s going to get to his spots, it’s just about making things tough for him.”
In the fourth quarter, the Sixers allowed Willie Cauley-Stein to score six points and grab a few rebounds down low, while Randolph’s jump shot over Ben Simmons with 2:02 left helped seal the Sixers’ seventh loss in their last eight games.
“[We miss Embiid] a lot every game [he's out],” Simmons said. “But you know, we've got to learn to play without him. When he’s in, it’s great, but when he’s not here, we still have to play and compete, which is what we do. But we have to learn how to close out games.”