The Philadelphia 76ers have been at the top of the Eastern Conference standings this season and entered Sunday’s game against the Indiana Pacers with a 14-6 record. However, the team was 0-4 without star center Joel Embiid in the lineup. They were without Embiid for a fifth time, and needed to prove they could win with the big man in the lineup.
Although it looked as though the streak would reach five consecutive losses without Embiid, the 76ers outscored the Pacers by 25 points over the final eight minutes to come away with a 119-110 win. Guard Matisse Thybulle came up big defensively with four steals and two blocked shots. It’s that kind of effort on the defensive end that has been missing by the team as a whole in the absence of Embiid.
Head coach Doc Rivers knew that regardless of the overall outcome of the game, his team needed to play well without Embiid. For much of the game, that wasn’t the case as the Pacers went up 16 with 8:13 remaining in the game. Tobias Harris, the team’s second leading scorer and making a case for an All-Star appearance, scored 27 points. Perhaps it was the spark by Furkan Korkmas who scored 11 in the fourth quarter that made the difference.
The problems without Embiid, who is averaging 28 points on 54 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three-point range, have been troublesome all season. Rivers indicated that the win against the Pacers was the “most gratifying” of the season.
He knows that there is much more work to be done before the 76ers are to where they want to be. However, a win on the road without their MVP-candidate against a solid Indiana team is a huge step in the right direction.