The Sixers secured their 50th win of the season in a 133-120 win over the Indiana Pacers in their second to last home game of the season. This makes it the franchise’s fourth 50+ win season during Joel Embiid’s tenure, as they had just two total from 1986-87 to 2015-16. It was a comfortable victory for the Sixers as they once led by 21 and kept the game in arms reach for the entirety of the second half. The team now has just one game remaining, and they will face off with the Pistons tomorrow.
Joel Embiid Dazzles
Despite Joel Embiid barely taking the court for warmups, he looked completely locked in during today’s game. He shot the ball incredibly efficiently and connected on 14 of 17 field-goal attempts and both of his three-point attempts. The Pacers also did a poor job of avoiding fouling Embiid and allowed him to get to the line 15 times which he made 11 of these.
In total, Joel Embiid ended with 41 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block and made sure his impact was felt all over the floor. It has been disappointing to see the MVP race leaning against the Sixers superstar and his performance today echoed his message of him not knowing what more he can do to have a chance at the award.
Joel Embiid also increased his scoring average to 30.6 points per game with the performance to give him a comfortable lead on the scoring title. LeBron James has been shut down for the year due to an ankle injury making him ineligible for the award, with Giannis Antetokounmpo now the closest player trailing Embiid with 29.9 points per game. Assuming Joel Embiid holds onto the award, he will be the first Center to lead the NBA in scoring since Shaquille O’neil during the 1999-2000 season.
Doc Plays Young Guys!
Whether it is a genuine opportunity or just giving some extra rest to the regular rotation is still to be seen, but Doc Rivers allowed some extended play for the young guys. Rivers elected to give Paul Reed the first chance to back up Joel Embiid in the matchup, which Sixers fans have been something hoped for by Sixers fans for quite some time. Isaiah Joe also clocked in for 9 minutes, and he added 5 points during this time.
The play of BBall Paul was especially notable as he put on display the activity and motor that Sixers fans have craved. In 11 minutes of play, Reed tallied 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals. He struggled to stay out of foul trouble and tallied 4 fouls in his first 6 minutes of play, but his impact on the court otherwise was incredibly positive.
It seems unlikely that Rivers would go from not playing Reed at all to giving him playoff minutes, but the former 58th overall pick is doing his best in the audition. There certainly are growing pains with Reed, but it is frustrated there has not been an attempt at getting them out of the way already.
Danny Green in Starting Lineup
In the previous game against the Toronto Raptors, Matisse Thybulle was ruled ineligible, which forced Doc Rivers to make a lineup change. Unsurprisingly it was Danny Green who was plugged into the starting lineup, and he impressed by knocking down 6 of 7 three-point attempts. The team returned to Philly with Thybulle active and tallying 24 minutes in the matchup; however, Danny Green remained with the starting unit.
It has been a frustrating season for Danny Green, who has been in and out of the lineup with injuries all year and struggled to fully find his stride. He also has been somewhat of a statistical anomaly as lineups with the veteran in them have produced a great amount of analytical success despite the visual unpleasantness of his play. While Matisse Thybulle is a very impactful player and is sure to play a role in the playoffs, the spacing that Green provides is a major asset and makes a ton of sense with the starting unit.
One of the exciting storylines surrounding Ben Simmons’ departure was how a lineup of Joel Embiid and four shooters would look. There are plenty of positive things to say about Matisse Thybulle, but he is far from a shooter. Especially given the likely chance of drawing the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs, it seems likely that Green could become the permanent starter.
Joel Embiid and the Sixers now have just one game to go in the season as they will tip-off against the Pistons tomorrow night. They are currently slated as the 4th seed in the playoffs and scheduled to face the Raptors; however, a victory tomorrow along with a loss by the Celtics would lift them to 3rd. This would change their playoff matchup to the Chicago Bulls, whom the Sixers are 4-0 against this season.