Montrezl Harrell, Sixers overcome Pacers in overtime thriller

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Montrezl Harrell reacts after a basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia 76ers faced a true challenge tonight. Against a scorching-hot Pacers team (6-1 in their last seven heading into tonight’s game), the Sixers would find themselves up a creek without the Eastern Conference Player of the Month, Joel Embiid.

Suffering from a sore left foot (that he suffered Monday night against the Pelicans), Embiid would miss his ninth game of the young season. There’s no telling how long this injury will keep him out, but Doc Rivers made it clear; at this point, he is unsure if Embiid will play Friday night against the Chicago Bulls.

While there was an air of confidence before the news broke, the possibility of a win became much less certain without the MVP candidate. The Sixers proved resilient, however, as they pushed for what would become their 11th consecutive home victory. They would do so the only way they could, as a complete unit.

Now as corny as that sounds, it’s the honest truth; while there were some stand-out players, it was the combined efforts of everyone that won this game. The Sixers had seven players score in double-figures. James Harden, Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, and De’Anthony Melton, along with Montrezl Harrell, all scored over 17 points as well.

As far as the only two players who did not score double-digits tonight (PJ Tucker and Matisse Thybulle) are concerned, they provided key defensive plays to give the Sixers their initial lead. Thybulle, in particular, had himself a night finishing with a team-high +14 in just 21 minutes played. The Sixers are 8-0 in games where Thybulle players 20 or more minutes. Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the rotation.

In familiar fashion, however, that aforementioned lead would be lost, but as Doc Rivers himself said, “Everybody blows leads in this game…we won the game; we should focus on the positive.”

As difficult as it may be to hear, there is some truth to this. One of the many amazing things about this great sport is that basketball is a game of runs. A team cannot simply roll over once they’ve built a lead because any team worth its weight will take advantage. Perhaps the Sixers achieve this more often than most, but as they (almost certainly including Doc) say, “a win is a win.”

Montrezl Harrell sparked the Sixers to victory

The Sixers proved resilient tonight, and some of their role players put forth performances that can hopefully be built upon as the season continues. Joel Embiid’s primary backup Montrezl Harrell was the picture of “stepping up” as he poured in an impressive performance that saw him total 19 points, five rebounds, a steal, and FOUR blocks. Harrell has been largely criticized — at times deservedly so — but there’s one thing that cannot go unmentioned; Montrezl Harrell puts his all into this game.

Harrell talked about his passion and commitment to the sport post-game.

While you cannot fairly expect this type of performance from Harrell every night, you can count on him bringing a unique energy to the court. Tonight, that energy helped make the difference for the Sixers and helped them seal their third consecutive victory.

With Embiid’s status in question for Friday’s game against Chicago, the team may have to rely on Harrell once more to lift the team with his fire.