Much like the rest of the Sixers, Joel Embiid got off to a slow start Saturday night. He had four points on 2 of 6 shooting and was a minus-13 in the first quarter.
“We started off the game pretty bad,” Embiid said after the Sixers’ 116-115 win over the Orlando Magic. “At one point, I think we were down 16.”
That’s right, but you knew the big fella wouldn’t be held down for long. Whether it was just finding a rhythm or getting amped up by going against his protege Mo Bamba, Embiid started rolling after the opening period.
He torched the Magic in just about every way imaginable. There were the bully ball post moves, the sweet midrange jumpers, one highlight-reel Euro step and even a few threes.
“That was good because I wouldn’t have shot any threes for the rest of the season if I didn’t make one today, but I’m glad I did,” said Embiid, who finished with 32 points, 10 boards and three assists. “It opened up my game and I feel like that’s where I always talk about being unguardable, unstoppable, but making threes just takes you to another level. It is something that I have to focus on. I’ve been focusing on it for the past few days. It is something that I have to keep focusing on because it makes me really unguardable.”
However, Embiid put up a zero in one category that truly makes him dominant: turnovers. The All-Star has struggled with giveaways throughout his young career, but he became the first Sixer since GM Elton Brand in 2011 to have at least 30 points and 10 boards without a turnover.
“A lot of people just think I’m a big man, but I’m a basketball player,” Embiid said. “I am able to do everything that a basketball player can do. From playmaking and scoring to just passing the ball and just being a leader and post presence.”
Closing time for McConnell
With the game hanging in the balance and primary ball-handler Ben Simmons sidelined by back tightness, Brett Brown had a decision to make. Would the head coach put the ball in Markelle Fultz’s hands and give the 20-year-old a critical learning experience? Or would Brown go for the comfort and energy of handing T.J. McConnell the keys?
Brown chose the latter as McConnell finished off the game at point guard for the Sixers.
“Just T.J’s experience,” Brown said of why he picked McConnell. “You get to a stage going into the fourth like, ‘How are you going to sub that? How are you going to play that out? So immediately I probably shrunk it down to that type of rotation. You saw you try to manipulate it where you can get Joel a good rest and JJ (Redick) a rest but then end back with that group. Markelle was a part of that. Then T.J. coming back in, that was my plan for that reason.”
“I thought, ‘Oh my god. I hope that won’t go in.’”
-Dario Saric on Terrence Ross’ 42-foot rainbow to give Orlando the lead with 1:24 remaining in the game
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.