Hey, the Philadelphia 76ers are a good basketball team. If they weren't, they probably would've lost last night, when on the second game of a back-to-back, they fell into a 14-point hole against the Charlotte Hornets (winners of 5 of their last 6) late in the third quarter. But thanks to some clutch shooting, stringent late-game D and the welcome bench presence of returned Processor Ersan Ilyasova (18-4-3 on 7-11 shooting), they fought back, and were able to capture the edge late in the fourth, eventually winning 110-99.
As big a win as it was for the Sixers' playoff position — leaving them a secure sixth in the East, with just two games separating them from Cleveland in third — it's probably bigger for the nice round number that gets to sit in the "G" section of Joel Embiid's Basketball-Reference page for this season. Embiid has now played 50 games in his sophomore season, a number that many of us thought he might never reach over the course of a full 82, and that even more of us figured we'd be blessed if he managed to hit at all this season — let alone with 21 games still to go.
Last night certainly wasn't Embiid's best performance as a Sixer — he shot just 8-19 from the field and 6-11 from the line (a rare shooting mini-slump from The Process), turned the ball over four times, and was plagued by foul trouble for much of the first three quarters. But he also kept Philly alive with a dominant 15-point third quarter, and made half of the play of the game, when he dished to Ilyasova on a give-and-go with under three to go to put the Sixers up five. Frankly, the fact that Embiid could have a 24-15-4 line (with three blocks, and total dominance of opposing center Dwight Howard) and have it count as something of a down game for him just shows how much we're already starting to take his brilliance as a given.
Through Embiid's 50 games this season, the Sixers are 31-19 — the winning percentage of a 51-win team overall — and he's on pace to play a remarkable 67 games total. That's not to say he definitely will, as you still never know what little injuries will pop up to derail his current consistency. But again, just to be this deep in the season, and to have JoJo playing both ends of a back-to-back with neither his health or his minutes a major source of discussion afterwards, is already more than most of us dared to dream. The fact that the Sixers are winning through it as well just feels like extra syrup on the sundae.