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Latest on Joel Embiid and injury-ravaged Sixers

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Latest on Joel Embiid and injury-ravaged Sixers

Updated at 5:27 p.m. 

CAMDEN, N.J. — Will Joel Embiid play against the Raptors or won't he? That decision will not be made until closer to tip-off for tonight's game against the Raptors. 

Embiid is probable for the Sixers' home matchup against the streak, 21-8 Raptors because of back tightness. An official decision on his status will be made after he goes through a pregame warmup. He partially went through shootaround Thursday morning and was on the court putting up shots during media availability. Embiid was initially listed as questionable before being upgraded to probable at approximately 5:20 p.m. 

Embiid's teammates said he looked good in shootaround, but they are prepared to wait for him to return if he isn't in full game shape.

"Of course we need him — he's our best player," Dario Saric said. "Of course he can help us a lot for tonight's game, but I think it's important for the team, for the organization to [not] press him to go earlier, to wait for him to be a hundred percent ready."

Robert Covington has dealt with back tightness himself. He suffered a back contusion against the Cavaliers on Nov. 9, missed the next two games, and said he's still experiencing some stiffness.

"It's probable," Covington said of Embiid playing. "You never know how it feels. Right now he felt good this morning, but it has to be continued. You don't want to rush that type of thing. He said he felt good, but it's got to be a continuous thing."

The Sixers do know they will be without JJ Redick. The starting shooting guard will miss Thursday's game because of right hamstring tightness, which caused him to exit early Tuesday night. Redick is doubtful for Saturday's matchup in Toronto. He was putting up shots after shootaround.

Trevor Booker did not go through shootaround because of gastroenteritis and was listed as questionable, but he will play. 

The Raptors come into Philadelphia on a four-game winning streak and winners of nine of 10. The Sixers face challenging obstacles against them if Embiid cannot play.

Sixers 122, Hornets 119 (OT): Jimmy Butler nails game-winner to give Sixers a crazy win

Sixers 122, Hornets 119 (OT): Jimmy Butler nails game-winner to give Sixers a crazy win

BOX SCORE

The Sixers wanted a player who could create his own offense in crunch time.

Jimmy Butler showed on Saturday night in Charlotte he is very much that player.

Butler’s contested three-pointer with 0.3 seconds remaining in overtime gave the Sixers a 122-119 win over the Hornets. Brett Brown cleared out for Butler and let him go to work after his new star missed an open mid-range jumper for the win at the end of regulation. 

Butler made a great defensive play the possession before his game-winner, blocking Kemba Walker and making an acrobatic play to keep the ball inbounds.

Somehow, some way, the Sixers survived a career-high 60 points from Walker.

• It doesn't matter that Butler only shot 4 for 11 from the floor. Regardless of what's happened earlier in the game, you can tell him, "Get me a shot" and he will deliver when it matters. It's a quality the Sixers have been missing, and it's a quality he clearly possesses. 

• To say that no lead is safe with the Sixers is only a slight exaggeration. They led by as many as 17 points in the second quarter but finished the second quarter poorly and didn’t start the third well either. Saturday night was the third straight game they squandered a lead of at least 16 points. The Sixers also blew leads of 10 points with under four minutes left in the fourth quarter and five points with under two minutes remaining in overtime. Big leads dwindle all the time in the NBA, and the excuse of playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road is valid, but the larger pattern of allowing opponents back into games is a problem. 

• Brett Brown said after Friday’s win that Ben Simmons faces the “biggest adjustment” playing with Jimmy Butler (see story). Whereas Simmons tended toward deferring to his teammates in his first two games with Butler, in Charlotte he found the right balance between borderline reckless drives to the rim and intelligent, classic point guard facilitation. 

There was also another beautiful example of Simmons already being on the same wavelength as Butler.

And a reminder that Simmons is a pretty special athlete.

Simmons posted a season-high 23 points, with 11 rebounds and nine assists. He made 9 of 11 free throws. 

• Walker can score against any player in the NBA, and that includes Butler. The Sixers held Walker to 33.3 percent shooting in their first two matchups against Charlotte, but it was only a matter of time before Walker had a big night against the Sixers. Walker is just too quick, too crafty, and simply too good to stop.

At a certain point, though, you wonder why the Sixers didn’t start sending immediate double teams at Walker or trapping him on pick-and-rolls to make his job more difficult. 

• For the second straight night, the Sixers’ offense started out hot. After scoring 38 points on 13 of 15 shooting in the first quarter Friday vs. the Jazz, the Sixers put up 42 in Charlotte.

Embiid had 18 of those points, starting off 7 for 8 from the floor and scoring at all three levels. Unsurprisingly, Cody Zeller proved to be a much easier matchup than Rudy Gobert. 

• Brett Brown has, for the most part, been very consistent with his first-half rotations — Embiid always plays the first five or so minutes before being taken out. In each of his first three games, Butler has played approximately the first eight minutes of the game and the last eight minutes of the half. 

Embiid told reporters after Wednesday’s loss to the Magic that he was “pissed” about being subbed out after five minutes despite hitting three early three-point shots. There is again an argument to be made that Brown should have diverted from his typical plan against the Hornets and stuck with Embiid, given the big man’s great opening stint.

At this stage of the season, however, there’s no reason to overextend Embiid early in games. After years of having to worry about minutes restrictions, Embiid has played more minutes than any player in the NBA. Even if a couple more minutes for Embiid in the first half of a game might help the Sixers on occasion, it’s just not worth it in November. 

• Speaking of minutes restrictions — With the Sixers on the second night of a back-to-back, Wilson Chandler was limited to 12 minutes, all in the second half. Mike Muscala started in his place. 

While Muscala only had six points, this was one of his better defensive games of the season. He acquitted himself reasonably well when switched onto the Hornets’ guards. 

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Sixers at Hornets: 3 storylines to watch as big 3 takes on Kemba Walker

Sixers at Hornets: 3 storylines to watch as big 3 takes on Kemba Walker

After an impressive home debut in the Sixers' win Friday over the Jazz, Jimmy Butler and company are back in action Saturday against Kemba Walker and the Hornets for the third time this season (see essentials)

The Sixers have taken the first two matchups, which have both come down to the final minutes.

Here are three storylines to watch for tonight's game:

Who shines in the fourth?

We’ve got three of the top fourth-quarter scorers this season all on the floor tonight in Butler (second), Walker (fourth) and Joel Embiid (sixth), and the last time these two teams met, they needed more than 48 minutes (Sixers won, 133-132, in overtime).

It wouldn’t surprise me if we get another close game down the stretch, but who will be the one to take over?

Jimmy Butler vs. Kemba Walker

Last night, when guarded by Butler, Donovan Mitchell was held to just 11 points on 5 for 20 shooting and went 0 for 6 from three-point range. Furthering that point, not one Jazz player scored a three-pointer if Butler was guarding him.

Walker is second only to Stephen Curry in three-pointers made this season. Defending the three is going to be a big key tonight, and it’ll be fun to watch Butler defensively on Walker.

Ben Simmons ... where art thou?

At times, Ben Simmons has looked a bit out of sorts, and he admitted after Friday’s game that having so many different roles to start this season has been mentally frustrating. Simmons also said that he thinks the Sixers are at a place now with Butler that he knows what the coaching staff needs from him. Brown said what they need from him is to be a point guard and "connect the dots." 

Will Simmons connect those dots tonight?

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