76ers

Sixers 132, Suns 127: Joel Embiid posts absurd numbers as Sixers survive the Suns

Sixers 132, Suns 127: Joel Embiid posts absurd numbers as Sixers survive the Suns

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The Sixers’ road trip has been long, winding and a little weird. It’s only fitting that it ended with two starters sidelined by an upper respiratory infection in Phoenix, Joel Embiid posting stellar stats for a game in the first half, and the Sixers nearly blowing a 30-point lead. 

With Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler out, the Sixers (25-14) finished a 3-2 road trip with a 132-127 win over the Suns.

Embiid had 42 points, tying a season high, and 18 rebounds.

Ben Simmons also had a season high with 29 points, and JJ Redick had 27.

• Even when a matchup appears friendly on the surface, Embiid is always able to add a little extra venom.

After drawing a foul on former teammate Richaun Holmes, he demonstratively suggested, “Get him out.”

The next trip down the floor, Embiid pulled off a move few, if any, defenders in the world could stop, a nifty Euro step around Holmes followed by an authoritative dunk.

Holmes, No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton and the Suns had no shot of stopping Embiid, who got a typical month’s worth of uncontested dunks in the first half alone. 

Embiid was the first player with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in a first half since Antwan Jamison on Dec. 30, 2000, per ESPN Stats & Info.

He had 30 points and 14 rebounds in the first half. As a team, the Sixers had 72 points on 36 field goal attempts. They took 32 first-half free throws, half of which came from Embiid.

• The Sixers somehow managed to let the 9-30 Suns cut a lead as large as 30 points down to three in the fourth quarter. Furkan Korkmaz's stepback three-pointer helped ice the win.

While the lack of depth could be used as an excuse, the Sixers should have finished off both the Clippers and an inferior Suns team much earlier than they ultimately did. 

Again, their 17 turnovers, many of which were unforced, aided the opponents’ comeback.

• On his 23rd birthday, Jonah Bolden got the first start of his NBA career. 

He posted four points, four rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes.

Bolden has shown on this road trip that he’s capable of switching onto smaller players, a valuable skill on the Sixers given the team’s switch-heavy defensive scheme. He moved his feet well on several occasions when matched up against the Suns guards. 

On a negative note, Bolden must eliminate the overzealous fouls. He’s had a few on this road trip, including one on a Kyle Korver four-point play in Utah, and another Wednesday where he closed out in sloppy fashion on T.J. Warren and fouled him behind the arc.

A team with ambitions of an Eastern Conference title can’t afford for their rotation players to consistently make those type of mistakes. 

Still, Bolden boosted his stock over the past few games. He’s shown he can provide some of the rim protection and athleticism the Sixers were missing during Embiid’s stints on the bench.

• Simmons didn’t take any jumpers Wednesday night. He didn’t need to against a Suns team physically incapable of handling him in transition or in the post. 

He had an excellent first quarter, with 13 points on 3 for 3 shooting from the floor and an impressive 7 for 8 from the foul line. He finished the night 15 for 23 at the line, season highs for both makes and attempts, as the Suns went with a "Hack-a-Simmons" strategy in the final minutes. 

• We’ve become accustomed to seeing two-way player Demetrius Jackson when the Sixers are up or down by 25-plus points, not in the first quarter of a game still in the balance.

He joined Simmons and T.J. McConnell in an unconventional lineup in the middle of the first period, a sign of the Sixers’ unique circumstances.

The 6-foot-1 Jackson showed off his hops on a third-quarter alley-oop from Simmons.

He also knocked down two three-pointers. Amir Johnson was the only active Sixer not to play. 

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Sixers Talk podcast: The Sixers are bound to go on a run

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Sixers Talk podcast: The Sixers are bound to go on a run

Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons' relationship, if the Sixers are going to go on a run, stability around the team and more on this edition of Sixers Talk.

• Are you encouraged by the way Jo and Ben acted toward each other during All-Star weekend? (2:00)

• The team's mettle will be tested with six of the next nine games on the road (5:45)

• Are the Sixers finally poised to go on a run? (7:43) 

• Eastern Conference betting odds (14:40)

• Is there enough stability and structure in the organization? (20:54)

• How troubling would it be if Jimmy Butler and the Heat go further than the Sixers? (31:47)

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Brett Brown is more interested in Joel Embiid's head than his hand

Brett Brown is more interested in Joel Embiid's head than his hand

CAMDEN, N.J. — In Sunday night’s NBA All-Star Game, Joel Embiid did not appear bothered by his left hand. He sought out contact, didn’t seem to be in pain or discomfort, and posted 22 points and 10 rebounds. He also did not wear a splint on his left hand, as he'd done since returning from a torn ligament in his ring finger.

A team spokesperson said Wednesday that will remain the case with the Sixers, and that Embiid will now use buddy tape on his hand.

After Embiid shot 6 for 26 on Feb. 6 against the Bucks, head coach Brett Brown told reporters in Milwaukee he thought Embiid’s hand was affecting his shooting. 

Embiid had also said his hand was having an adverse impact.

“The Miami game, you’re kind of scared sometimes, you’re just trying to look for a foul or try to be physical,” he said. “Especially on the rebounds — I think that’s where it affects me the most. But, like I said, it’s not an excuse. I’ve gotta just figure it out and keep pushing.”

Still, Brown leaned toward the metaphorical after practice Wednesday when asked a broad question about Embiid’s health. 

I think the place that interests me the most, where I see his conditioning incrementally getting to an elite level, is his head. I think he is in a space that is excellent as it relates to his excitement, seeing this final third home — to grab the team by the throat and lead us in a bunch of different areas. ... I've been with him a long time, and when I look at him and I talk to him and I hear his words ... and we're always sort of, like you would with your children, judging their body language and all that. 

“I just think he's in a really good space. As it relates to the physical conditioning, we just went up and down hard for about 60 minutes — really up and down, up and down, up and down — saw no drop off. If you study the tape from the other night and you watch Joel Embiid run the floor and some of his rim runs … we all would be saying, 'Well, shoot, it can't get any better than that.' And so I think his fitness level is fine, and I think his headspace is even better. 

As for Embiid’s hand, Brown deferred judgement. After missing nine games with the injury, Embiid has played in eight contests, averaging 21 points and 10.4 rebounds. He’s shot 44.1 percent from the floor, 38.2 percent on three-point shots and 69.9 percent at the foul line.

“I believe I'll be able to tell more when when he gets double teamed at what I call the up block … and he's forced to pass more with his left hand, which used to be all bandaged up,” Brown said. “I used to get worried in that environment where people would come hard looking to whack it or double team him from that floor spot. I look forward to seeing him pass from that floor spot.

“It's easier on the other side, the down side, with his right hand, and I think that's where it will stand out probably the most for me, to see the difference of no wrap and the one that used to be wrapped.”

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