AMHERST, Mass. — It’s happened.
Joel Embiid has logged his first NBA game, a night that has been highly anticipated for over two years. The Sixers beat the Celtics, 92-89, in their preseason opener on Tuesday played at UMass-Amherst (see highlights).
Embiid played 13 minutes, one over his scheduled 12-minute restriction, all in the first half. He missed his first three attempts before knocking down a seven-foot turnaround fadeaway jumper over Tyler Zeller with 50 seconds left in the first quarter. Embiid swatted the shot of Jaylen Brown on the next possession.
He concluded his debut with six points (2 for 6 from the field, 2 for 2 from the line), four rebounds (two offensive), two blocks, two fouls and three turnovers (see story).
“It doesn’t matter if I don’t score, or it doesn’t matter if I don’t grab a rebound,” Embiid said before the game. “It doesn’t matter if I don’t block a shot. I just want to get back on the court and play.”
Saric debuted, too
While the main focus was on Embiid, Dario Saric also made his NBA debut. Saric started at power forward, his natural position, played 18 minutes and posted 10 points (4 for 6 from the field, 2 for 3 from three), six rebounds (all defensive), two assists and four turnovers.
Saric is playing with a sore back. Brown did not place him under a minutes restriction, but watched him carefully, aware of the strain Saric’s body went through this summer in Olympic competition.
"There are no restrictions, but I am completely paranoid about him,” Brown said beforehand.
The Sixers trailed 63-53 with 2:40 to play in the third. They went on an 18-0 run to push the lead up to 71-63. During the spurt, they were led by Brandon Paul, who scored a game-high 15 points on the night. The Sixers fended off a last-minute Celtics push in which Boston had two opportunities to tie the game with a three.
Inside the box score
• The Sixers had five players score in double figures. Paul (15), T.J. McConnell (13), Saric (10), Jerami Grant (10) and Richaun Holmes (10) all reached the double-digit point mark.
• Terry Rozier led the Celtics in scoring with 12 points, while Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder all had 11.
• The Sixers shot 42.3 percent from the field compared to 40.9 percent from the Celtics. The Sixers also had the advantage in three-point shooting (32.3 percent to 27.6 percent).
T.J. the starting PG
McConnell got the nod at starting point guard. Brown had expected Jerryd Bayless to be the starter, but the veteran is dealing with a sore left wrist. Brown thought McConnell, who fought his way onto the roster last training camp, had earned the edge over offseason addition Sergio Rodriguez.
“I think his camp was excellent,” Brown said. “I think the familiarity with what we have been doing for the past year or so with him as a backup point guard, I feel like that’s going to put us in better shape to start with in our first game.”
Bayless (sore wrist), Jahlil Okafor (load management for knee) and Cat Barber (hand/wrist) did not play. Gerald Henderson had a minutes restriction for his hip. Nik Stauskas left the game in the third quarter because of a left hamstring strain and did not return.
The Sixers will play their first preseason game at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday against the Wizards.