By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) February 25, 2018
Philadelphia 116, Orlando 105 – Box Score
An unusual 5:00 Saturday afternoon start time. A nationally televised Sunday night game in DC on deck. An Orlando Magic team that entered play having lost four straight and sitting next to last in the Eastern Conference. There were plenty of reasons the Sixers could have fallen victim to the classic “letdown game”, and when Orlando jumped out to an early 15-6 lead, it looked like that might be the case.
With Joel Embiid, however, there would be no letdown. Upon re-entering the contest with 2:39 remaining in the first quarter, the Sixers center immediately went on a personal 6-0 run. That short sequence was a prelude to the 27 minutes of destruction he would rain upon the Magic throughout the afternoon and early evening.
Embiid’s first two points of the game came bringing the ball up himself and pulling up from the foul line. After the jumper swished through, the camera cut to Brett Brown on the bench, a bemused smirk playing across his face. Technical post moves to finish around the basket, rip-throughs to earn easy trips to the free throw line, silky smooth face up jumpers, Embiid threw the whole arsenal at the Magic and they were helpless to stop him. A three-pointer from the top of the key four minutes into the second quarter gave Embiid 17 points and put the Sixers ahead by 15. The game was never truly in doubt the rest of the way.
The cherry on top came in the third quarter, though, featuring a sequence where JoJo drained a textbook Dirk Nowitzki one-legged fadeaway and then blocked a Shelvin Mack drive on the other end, punctuating it with the Dikemebe Mutombo finger wag.
Embiid’s dirk fadeaway + block and mutombo finger wag pic.twitter.com/3knAk87kLO
— Drew Corrigan (@Dcorrigan50) February 24, 2018
That’s the greatest shooting big man ever and one of the best defensive big men of all time all in one tidy package. He goes by The Process for short.
The final line for Embiid: 28 points on 10-17 shooting, 14 rebounds, and most impressively, zero turnovers. A few of those buckets came off terrific feeds from J.J. Redick, who had 3 assists when he wasn’t knocking down every jumper in sight (16 points on 6-8 shooting). Ben Simmons had an efficient 17 points and 7 assists, keeping the momentum rolling for his Rookie of the Year frontrunner status.
Crucially, Embiid and every Sixer other than T.J. McConnell logged fewer than 30 minutes, meaning the roster will be as well-rested as possible heading into the second half of their back-to-back. The Sixers have won 7 straight games, and still haven’t lost in Philadelphia in 2018. They’re now just one game back of the 4th seed in the East, currently held by Washington, who the Sixers will face next. I think Joel Embiid and company might just be ready to keep climbing the conference ladder.