76ers

Joel Embiid sets career high, makes up for uneven effort by Sixers in win over Hawks

Joel Embiid sets career high, makes up for uneven effort by Sixers in win over Hawks

BOX SCORE

In many ways, Monday night was a microcosm of the Sixers this season. They dominated early, struggled against the zone and played an unnecessarily close game.

Lucky for them, they have Joel Embiid.

The All-Star center was spectacular in setting a new career high in scoring as the Sixers saw a 21-point lead slip away before securing a 129-112 win over the Hawks at the Wells Fargo Center.

It was another game missed for Ben Simmons. The All-Star point guard is still being evaluated and considering treatment options, according to a team spokesperson (see story).

The win improves the Sixers to an NBA-best 27-2 at home and 36-22 overall. They travel to Cleveland to take on the Cavs Wednesday (7 p.m./NBCSP).

Here are observations from the win:

Embiid engaged

Over the last few games, Embiid has been much more active and engaged on both ends of the floor. In a game against a bad Hawks team and with Simmons out, it was encouraging to see Embiid continue to play that way.

He ran rim to rim all night which allowed him to get early post position and also allowed him to catch rookie Bruno Fernando on this chase-down block.

It was sheer dominance from Embiid all night. When he was in the game, Atlanta couldn’t get anything near the rim. While the team struggled as a whole, Embiid was excellent, posting a career-high 49 points (17 of 24) to go along with 14 rebounds, three assists and three steals.

He also continues to get to the line, going 14 of 15.

In the zone

We’ve seen opponents run plenty of zone against the Sixers. What we haven’t seen is the Sixers also running zone.

The Sixers’ offense handled it well early. Embiid got the ball on the elbow during the first possession and put a Dream Shake on Fernando for a bucket. There were a couple possessions where they settled for outside looks, but for the most part, they knifed through the zone and got good looks. Then they went dormant in the third, scoring just 22 points. Brett Brown insists his team's issues against the zone are in the past. I'm not so sure, though the effort was better in the fourth.

As for the Sixers’ zone, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. They won the first quarter 41-24 and then Brown implemented the zone to start the second. Atlanta scored 28 points in the period and played the Sixers even. It was an odd choice by Brown. We’ll see what he says about it postgame.

Harris gutting it out

Tobias Harris landed awkwardly and clutched his right knee on a drive against Milwaukee Saturday night. Harris appeared to be favoring his right knee the rest of the game and was initially listed as doubtful for this game with a right knee contusion.

He was upgraded to questionable earlier today and was in the starting lineup. He’s the only Sixer to play all 58 games this season.

On the court, Harris showed no ill effects from the injury. Embiid and Harris combined for 24 of the Sixers’ 41 first-quarter points. Harris even initiated the offense a few times with Simmons out and was looking as aggressive as he’s been. He had another strong outing as Embiid's running mate going for 25 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Containing Trae

Josh Richardson didn’t have a strong night offensively, but he was also dealing with a dangerous defensive assignment in Trae Young. The All-Star guard carved up the Sixers in their last matchup. A large chunk of the damage came from the foul line, with Young going 18 of 20 back in Atlanta.

On Monday, Young scored efficiently, but didn’t just take over the game like last time. He had a strong third quarter which helped the Hawks actually take a lead after three but didn’t live at the foul line. Richardson also really put the clamps down on Young in the fourth to help the Sixers build their lead back up. Young had 28 for the game, but was just 2 of 10 from three and only took six free throws.

The ‘new’ starters

Al Horford and Shake Milton both started Monday. Horford was recently taken out of the starting lineup to lessen his minutes with Embiid. Milton has been in and out of the rotation, but started for a stretch while Richardson was out.

Against a team with a traditional four like the Hawks, Brett Brown opted to use Horford. When Horford was at the five, you saw the offense run through him at the elbow. He also ran some pick-and-pop and got time in the post.

He was solid with seven points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Every time Milton has gotten an opportunity to play, he’s taken full advantage. The word that continues to get used with Milton is poise. He was solid on both ends in this one.

The second-year guard filled the stat sheet with seven points, six assists and five rebounds.

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Al Horford makes a donation for coronavirus relief in Dominican Republic, regions where he's played in United States

Al Horford makes a donation for coronavirus relief in Dominican Republic, regions where he's played in United States

Al Horford has donated $500,000 to support coronavirus relief in the Dominican Republic, as well as in each region of the United States where he's played for a team, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

Horford’s father Tito was the first Dominican-born NBA player, and Al was born in the country. The family later moved to Michigan, where Horford attended Grand Ledge High School. He went to the University of Florida and has played for three NBA cities — Atlanta, Boston and Philadelphia. 

Several other members of the Sixers organization have also made charitable donations during the coronavirus pandemic. Joel Embiid has pledged to donate $500,000 to COV-19 medical relief efforts. Ben Simmons launched “The Philly Pledge,” an initiative which encourages donations to Philabundance and the PHL COVID-19 Fund that’s received support from a wide range of Philadelphia athletes, among them teammates Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris, Norvel Pelle and Marial Shayok. 

Sixers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer have made several donations related to coronavirus relief, including to Philabundance and to CHOP and Cooper Hospital.

Limited partner Michael Rubin aims to have his company Fanatics produce a million masks and gowns for hospital and emergency healthcare workers. 

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Sixers Home School: The night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan

Sixers Home School: The night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan

There's a lot of home schooling going on right now, so why not use some of this time to learn more about the history of your favorite teams? In this edition of Sixers Home School, we look back at the night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan.

In a vacuum, rookie Allen Iverson crossing over the legendary Michael Jordan on March 12, 1997, at what was then known as the CoreStates Center was impressive enough.

Putting it into context makes you understand just how big of a deal it was at the time.

The 21-year-old Iverson was having a strong rookie campaign after the Sixers drafted him No. 1 overall. He was still a month away from setting an NBA rookie record with five straight games of 40-plus points. He wasn’t sporting what would become his trademark cornrows — though he did rock them when he won MVP of the Schick Rookie Game. 

This night was when he began to really put a bow on what would turn into a Rookie of the Year season.

As for Jordan and the Bulls, they were ho humming their way to a 69-win season and their fifth title in seven years. Jordan was 33, and though his game had evolved, he was as dominant as ever. Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman provided all the help he would need.

But on this night, it wasn’t about the Bulls, who celebrated receiving their championship ring ceremony by trouncing the Sixers and shutting down Iverson earlier in the season.

This was about the kid from Hampton, Virginia. The six-foot guard from Georgetown that grew up idolizing His Airness, but also told a coach back in high school that he was good enough to take him. 

“I remember the first time I played against him,” Iverson said in his Hall of Fame speech. “I walked out on the court and I looked at him, and for the first time in my life a human being didn’t look real to me.”

Though the first time the two actually talked was not necessarily cordial.

“The first time I ever talked to him was that year playing in the Rookie Game,” Iverson said in an interview with Complex. “I’ll never forget it because he said, ‘What’s up, you little b----?’ I’ll never forget it.”

Whether the moment provided extra motivation or what, Iverson was at times the best player on the court — which, given who was on the court, is a hell of a statement.

Iverson would finish with a game-high 37 points and foul out in a four-point loss. No, the Sixers didn’t win that night, but the fact that Iverson nearly willed a team full of guys like Scott Williams, Mark Davis and Rex Chapman to a victory over that juggernaut was remarkable.

But over the course of time, nobody remembers — or really cares — who won that game. It was the moment A.I. crossed over M.J. It wasn’t quite a torch-passing moment as Jordan would go on to win another MVP and championship, but it was a clear indication that Philadelphia had drafted a star.

That highlight dominated every sportscast the following day and had Sixers fans' imaginations running wild.

The legend of Iverson only continued to grow from there as he became one Philadelphia’s most celebrated athletes and joined his idol in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

Years later, he spoke to Jordan about the moment he got him with his legendary crossover.

“I went to a Charlotte game and I was telling him how much he meant to me and how I rocked with him,” Iverson went on to say in the interview with Complex. “He was like, ‘Man, you don’t rock with me like that because you wouldn’t have crossed me like that.’”

For as much as Iverson had idolized Jordan, his desire to beat him and be the best outweighed that.

“I always knew that once I got to the league, I was going to try my move on the best,” Iverson said, “so he was just a victim that night.”

That night, a star was born and a legacy was just beginning.

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