7 for 6: Tough Breaks

Embiid’s Injury

In the first quarter of last Monday’s game against Oklahoma City, Joel Embiid badly dislocated a finger on his left hand. Test revealed an additional torn ligament, requiring surgery. His status will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

For the Sixers, they are without their best player for at least a month. They run everything through Embiid; the offense is driven by his post touches, and the defensive scheme funnels players toward the basket so the big man can swat shots away. The challenge now becomes being a consistently functional team focused on entirely different skill sets.

 

Celtics Rivalry Shifting

The first game without Embiid was an important one; at home against the Boston Celtics. The Sixers responded in a big way, thanks in large part to Josh Richardson (29 points on 9-16 shooting, 7 assists) and former Celtic Al Horford (17 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks).

For the first time since 2013-14, the Sixers have won the season series against Boston. Despite the best efforts of Marcus Smart (24 points, including 5 three pointers on 7 tries), the Celtics struggle to score efficiently against the Sixers’ massive lineup. The playoffs are another level of intensity, but Philadelphia should feel good about how they matchup with this iteration of the Celtics.

Thybulle Returns

A notable development in that win over Boston was Matisse Thybulle’s return to the lineup.  The rookie had not played since Dec. 21st, and the team went 3-4 without him. As with much of his season so far, Thybulle’s contributions went beyond the box score. Brett Brown trusted him to close the game, using a lineup of Thybulle, Simmons, Richardson, Harris, and Horford. That lineup is almost completely switchable 1 through 5, holding the Celtics to just 18 points in the 4th quarter.

“I would say to him, ‘This is really a good experience,” Brett Brown said of his conversations with the rookie. “You will be injured [during your career]. And how you take advantage of it will be important.’ …the vision line that you have in a suit vs. you sitting on a bench, it’s all different. You’re going to feel things, you’re going to see things, you’re going to have a set of experiences that you just wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Road Woes Continue

Not everything has been positive, however. Recent games have highlighted, once again, the disparity in the Sixers’ level of play at home versus on the road. They’ve now lost 6 straight away from Philadelphia, including two to the Indiana Pacers, a team only separated by .5 game in the conference standings. On the season the team’s net rating is +9.6 at home, and -3.1 on the road.

Things don’t get easier going forward. They have 3 straight road games in the next week (the Knicks on Saturday, Nets on Monday, and Raptors on Wednesday), follosed by 4 straight as the calendar turns to February (Hawks, Celtics, Heat, and Bucks).

All Star Returns

The 2nd round of voting results has been released for next month’s all star game in Chicago

NBA.com

Embiid ranks 2nd among all Eastern Conference players. Ben Simmons is lagging behind, only 8th among guards in the conference. Embiid’s absence will give Simmons a chance to shine and boost his candidacy in the coming weeks. Voting for the game ends on Martin Luther King Jr. day, Jan. 20th.

Australian Charity

Ben Simmons and the eight other Australian born NBA players have pledged $750,000 to assist with the brushfires currently ravaging larges parts of the country.

All Stats via Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com

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