By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
— x – Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 29, 2018
Philadelphia 118, New York 101 – Box Score
When Brett Brown announced Markelle Fultz would be returning to the court for the tail end of the season, Sixers fans hoped he would be able to make an impact. They just didn’t figured that impact would come with Joel Embiid’s face.
Moments into the start of the second quarter, a botched dribble-handoff between the two resulted in Fultz’s shoulder colliding with the big man’s dome. Embiid was down on the floor for a bit before heading off to the locker room, where he sat out the remainder of the game.
Joel Embiid is headed into the locker room after a collision on the court
Here is the play where it happened. pic.twitter.com/LoP8wWl4C6
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) March 28, 2018
Fortunately, it would appear the result isn’t as bad as it could have been. The diagnosis in the arena was a facial contusion, with Embiid having cleared the concussion protocol. However, he’s still going to the hospital for some precautionary tests, so the team may not be completely out of the woods yet.
Despite the injury, there was a game still to be played. The Knicks may be in full tank mode, but somebody on the Sixers had to keep up with the mid-range jumpers from Michael Beasley (22 points).
In a flashback to last year when Embiid was shut down for the season, it was Dario Saric who stepped up and carried the load. The second-year forward finished with 26 points, a season-high 14 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals. Saric always gets credit for his hustle and making winning plays on the margin, but he’s also more than capable of taking a star turn with a larger share of the spotlight.
Others chipped in up and down the roster. Ben Simmons fell two rebounds shy of yet another triple-double (13 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists). J.J. Redick assumed some of that extra usage with Embiid out, handling the ball more on his way to 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Richaun Holmes saw his most playing time in a while with both Embiid and Amir Johnson (flu) sidelined. Holmes was as active as ever, bouncing around the court for 15 points and 7 rebounds.
As for Fultz, he certainly does not lack for aggressiveness attacking the basket in his return. He also had 7 assists without a turnover, giving him a 15:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in his two games back. For whatever learning curve Fultz might have in getting back up to game speed, rediscovering his court vision doesn’t seem to be an issue. We also saw his first free throws post-shoulder mystery! There was definitely still a bit of a hitch, but it wasn’t an abject disaster.
Fultz Free Throws pic.twitter.com/1CnFuD8t3P
— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) March 29, 2018
The win was the 8th straight for the Sixers and completed the first season sweep against the Knicks in nine years. Philadelphia remains just a half game back of Cleveland for 3rd place in the East; the Cavaliers also won Wednesday night in Charlotte. The Sixers will be back in action Friday night in Atlanta, but their top priority will be ensuring there are no lingering effects of the blow to the head for Embiid, and that he’s fully healthy whenever he returns to the court.