DENVER — A game without Joel Embiid turned into a complete team effort. It needed to. The undermanned Sixers completed a feat done only once before this season: win minus Embiid.
“Everybody played a role and I think that’s just how we’ve got to play,” Ben Simmons said Saturday following the Sixers 107-102 victory (see observations).
There is no replication for Embiid when he is out, in this case on the first night of a back-to-back (medical restriction). It has to by committee, which has been easier said than done.
The Sixers were 1-7 without Embiid (their last victory came Nov. 7) heading into Saturday night’s game at the Pepsi Center, where the Nuggets had been an impressive 12-3.
They had to overcome a third-quarter deficit to win this game and did so with a 21-4 run … while Ben Simmons and JJ Redick were on the bench.
No Embiid. No Simmons. No Redick. Yet the group on the court still took care of business. The Sixers improved to 16-19 on the season.
“It was sort of done with an unlikely crew,” Brett Brown said. “And that’s the reason you have a team.”
The Sixers got contributions throughout the night from the starting five down to the bench. Six players finished in double digits, including three reserves.
Dario Saric led the team with 20 points (nine rebounds and six assists), followed by Redick (18 points), Robert Covington (15 points, 10 rebounds), Jerryd Bayless (14 points), Richaun Holmes (14 points) and T.J. McConnell (10 points, eight assists).
These stat lines included continued momentum and bounceback performances.
Saric followed up his 25-point game against the Trail Blazers Thursday with another near-double-double. Richaun Holmes had not played in the last two games and got a look at extended minutes (19) off the bench in Embiid’s absence.
It was Bayless who made a major splash during the Sixers’ game-changing spurt, dropping seven points in the third after a scoreless first half. He shot 6 for 10 from the field on the night after combining for 4 of 14 in his previous three outings.
“Jerryd Bayless, particularly I’m proud of because he has been down,” Brown said.
Said Redick, who has been on the opposing end of a Bayless takeover in the past, “Jerryd gave us a huge lift, got us back in the game and gave us the lead.”
The Sixers will get Embiid back Sunday in Phoenix to take on the Suns, a team they already lost to at home this season. They can count on him on both ends of the floor, but Saturday's win was another reminder of how much better they can be when they are getting contributions across the entire roster.
"Everybody played well," Bayless said. "We played the right way. I think that’s something I’ve said every time I’ve talked to you guys. If we play the right way, we’re pretty good. I think it shows. We’ve just got to continue to do that."