‘When I Really Try’: Sixers Star Joel Embiid Toying with Lesser Bigs


Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid can beat double teams or play out on the perimeter.

The Houston Rockets threw the kitchen sink at Joel Embiid on Wednesday night. They sent out a smaller lineup and forced the Philadelphia 76ers center to guard the perimeter. They also tried double-teaming Embiid in the paint. Nothing worked.

Embiid finished with 34 points and 12 rebounds in just 25 minutes as the Sixers cruised to a 135-115 win. They were up by double figures all night — 108-91 after three quarters — and rested their starters in the fourth quarter.

It didn’t hurt that the Rockets only had eight guys available to start (a number that went down to six during the game) and played without their starting center Christian Wood. Not that it would have mattered too much.

“I’m pretty good guarding the perimeter. I’m better than 90% of the bigs, and I’m better than any bigs when I really try,” Embiid told reporters. “So, I don’t have any problems, but if you’re gonna do that, that means you’re gonna give up a lot on the offensive side.”

The Sixers have been enjoying large leads and early exits during their dominating six-game winning streak. The average margin of victory? 21.8 points. While it’s enabled key starters to sit on the bench late in games, it could serve as a curse down the line if players don’t keep up with conditioning on off days.

“I think it’s good and it’s not because I want to play as much as I can and just make sure that I’m ready for the load in the playoffs,” Embiid said. “I’m going to have to play 36, 38 minutes a game, so I just want to make sure that I’m also ready. When we get back, I got to do my old conditioning.”

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No One Cares About Ben Simmons’ Shooting

Ben Simmons attempted eight field goals against Houston and scored 10 points. And the Sixers outscored the opposition by 14 points during his 24 minutes on the court. The All-Star point guard controls the tempo, something that was sorely lacking in the four games Simmons missed with a viral infection.

“I thought we were really struggling right before he came back,” head coach Doc Rivers said of Simmons. “Just offensively, I thought we were struggling with our pace. And sometimes you sit out and you watch that yourself. I’m assuming Ben was watching, I can’t tell you if he was or not, but I assume it helps.”

When asked if Simmons looked like he was becoming a more willing shooter on the offensive end, Rivers delivered the soundbite everyone wanted to hear. No. He doesn’t give a damn about how many jumpers Simmons takes on a given night.

“I’ll let you guys talk about all the jump shooting. I think you guys love that subject,” Rivers said. “We’ll keep winning. You keep talking about the jump shots.”

Embiid Building Chemistry with Tobias Harris

Embiid was equally effusive in his praise for Simmons and said he makes the “game easy for everybody.” He credited the way Simmons spaces the floor and finds open shooters as the main reasons why. Embiid has also been developing great chemistry with Tobias Harris as their inside-out offense has become a new bullet in the Sixers’ holster. Harris scored 15 points on Wednesday night in Houston.

“We’re just playing off of each other, trying to get open and trying to get him a shot,” Embiid said. “And if he doesn’t have anything then usually I just go back to the post or he gets someone one-on-one. That’s a part of our game that we’ve used a few times but I feel like we need to use more.”