Embiid returns to court following late injury, Sixers win third straight

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 112, Los Angeles 98 – Box Score

Unlike their previous two victories, there was actually a period of time when the Sixers trailed the Clippers Saturday night. They fell behind for a whopping 3 minutes in the first quarter, before taking control for the rest of the way. The win makes three straight for the Sixers, who haven’t lost a game at the Wells Fargo Center since all the way back on December 21st against Toronto.

Unfortunately, the good vibes from the win evaporated with 7:33 remaining in the fourth quarter, when Joel Embiid slipped awkwardly on the floor and hobbled off to the locker room.

 

After the game, Embiid said the pain was from the impact with the floor, not from a twist or anything. Whatever happened, he was cleared by the medical staff to return and re-entered the game with 4:53 remaining and the Sixers up by 4. A Simmons steal and feed to Covington for a dunk, followed by a Redick three-pointer, quickly put Philadelphia back up by 9. Embiid contributed 3 free throws the rest of the game.

Now, hopefully, the medical staff made the right diagnosis, nothing serious actually happened, and Embiid will be perfectly fine going forward. But given everything we’ve seen from the staff in the past, why should we just be confident that will be the case? In fact, we saw a very similar situation just last season.

As you may recall, Embiid landed awkwardly in a game against Portland, after which the team sat him out a few games before having him return for a nationally televised game against Houston. The Houston game was the last one he would play during his rookie season. Embiid would sit out the rest of the year, having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee along the way. We can never really know for sure, but it’s reasonable to conclude Embiid made that injury worse by playing on it.

With Embiid’s injury history in mind, I’d like to see a little more caution exercised by the team with a few minutes left in a January regular season game. If the team can’t hold onto a 4-point lead without him, so be it. I hope we’re not shaking our heads about yet another medical screw-up in the days or weeks to come.

The Embiid thing was really a shame, because he played such an outstanding game on the whole, finishing with 29 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks. There is absolutely no chance for anyone to defend a 7-footer hitting a turnaround, fadeaway jumper like this one.

Ben Simmons continues to play like he’s pissed off for being left off the All-Star team, even four spots down on the replacement list. The rookie casually recorded 14 points, 10 assists, 2 steals, and a block, showing terrific energy on the defensive end and pulling off this Rondo-esque Houdini trick for one of his buckets.

Everyone’s favorite Pittsburgh native also showed up in a big way. T.J. McConnell scored 17 points off the bench on 6-7 shooting and a perfect 3-3 from behind the arc, while also chipping in with 8 assists. After all the handwringing about whether T.J. could play alongside Simmons because Ben needed to be surrounded by shooters, McConnell has now made 51.1% of his threes on the season. Both he and #TrustTheFriendship buddy Dario Saric have done a tremendous job improving in that area.

Sixers sign Marco Belinelli

Following the game, we had late-breaking news that the Sixers had signed guard Marco Belinelli to a veteran’s minimum deal. Belinelli had recently reached a buyout agreement with the Hawks, after Atlanta could not find a trade they liked at the deadline. Belinelli is a career 37.7% three-point shooter, making almost exactly that number this season at 37.2%. He brings little else to the table, but won’t be asked to in Philadelphia. Knock down open shots off Joel Embiid post-ups and Ben Simmons drive-and-kicks, and you’ll do just fine here, Marco.

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