The Philadelphia 76ers entered Wednesday night’s matchup against the Chicago Bulls in serious need of a win. After allowing the Bulls to take the first game of the back-to-back, the Sixers had fallen to more than a full game back behind the Boston Celtics for the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
Thankfully, despite the loss of James Harden for the night and Joel Embiid’s early exit, the team made short work of the now 34-38 Bulls. The team’s resilience stood out, as did a mysterious situation involving Joel Embiid.
These are not the Sixers of yesterseason
Once again, the 2022-2023 Sixers showed a fight within them that we have not seen from this franchise in past years. While they were unable to finish the job Monday night in Philadelphia, the team at least managed to respond with a swift but firm punch to the collective mouth of the Chicago Bulls.
The Sixers’ effort was so dominant, in fact, that it was their 17-0 opening run was the largest since the 2013-14 season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Time and time again this season, the Sixers have either hung in late in games, overcome large deficits, or, at worst, responded following a loss. This type of resilience is exactly what was missing in previous years and even in the playoffs.
Once again, these are not the Sixers of yesterseason.
What the heck happened to Joel Embiid?
While fans were undoubtedly excited by the blowout win over the Bulls initially, a missing Joel Embid in the second half left them utterly deflated.
As the second quarter began, it was instantly noticed that Joel Embid was not starting the second half for the Sixers. In an odd series of events, information began to slowly become available.
The game would progress as the narrative was initially suggested that Embiid’s absence was due to the vast lead the Sixers enjoyed. This came from the broadcast crew of Kate Scott and Alaa Abdelnaby.
While Embiid has missed a few fourth quarters due to large leads, an entire half is quite a bit of basketball. And it’s not as though a Sixers team, or a team coached by Doc Rivers even, has never blown a lead before.
These Sixers may be different, but a whole second half without Embiid for “load management” was a story no one was going to buy, but it was the Sixers organization that failed to provide any sort of insight. Kate and Alaa simply did their job as the last thing a crew would/should do is speculate on an injury.
After the game, the Sixers finally acknowledged the true cause of Embiid’s absence, a case of “mild calf tightness.
So, what was the point of the mirage? Gamesmanship?
One could surmise many theories on why the franchise would take the approach they did to this injury, but at this point, the injury itself simply outweighs the why behind the narrative.
Sixers’ head coach Doc Rivers spoke after the game and told reporters that they were not overly concerned about Embiid’s injury. Rivers even stated that the expectation is for Embiid to suit up against the Warriors this coming Friday.