Embiid leads the way as Sixers stomp Portland in home opener

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, right, goes up for the shot with Portland Trail Blazers’ Robert Williams III, left, defending during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

The Philadelphia 76ers hosted their home opener Sunday evening in the second game of a back-to-back. Ahead of the game, many wondered if reigning MVP Joel Embiid would play as the Sixers had just traveled from Toronto, where the team defeated the Raptors the night before. As the tip gradually approached, it was announced that Embiid would play; and play he most certainly did.

A quick James Harden update

Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden, third from right, looks on from the bench with his teammates during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Courtside for the festivities was one James Harden, who continues to ramp up in hopes of eventually making his season debut with the Sixers, according to team representatives.

Despite an uneven start offensively for the Sixers, the home team quickly rallied behind a strong push led by their stars, Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. The former enjoyed an all-around quality start which included three assists in the first quarter, while the latter made life difficult for No. 2 overall pick Scoot Henderson on both ends as he finished the first with ten early points while holding Scoot to just two points.

As the first wave of reinforcements off the bench arrived, it was Patrick Beverley and Kelly Oubre who heard their name called before any others. Alongside De’Anthony Melton, who briefly checked out and then went back in for Maxey, the trio caused nightmares for Portland’s offense.

Throughout the first quarter, the Sixers performed strong, but once Joel Embiid left the court at the start of the second quarter, the tides of the game changed. Without their MVP, Philadelphia struggled to slow down Portland’s offensive attack led by Jerami Grant.

As the end of the second quarter approached, Embiid returned, and the intensity of the matchup ratcheted up. Feeling the frustration of the lead that was now lost, Embiid took out his frustration on the nearby stanchion after a shooting foul was called against P.J. Tucker.

Following the tech, Embiid channeled those frustrations into a dominant effort over the Blazers in the interior. Securing and maintaining the lead by the end of the second quarter, the game ended as many expected, with the Sixers up in a comfortable way. The final score of the night, Sixers 126-Blazers 98.

Sixers Player of the Game: Joel Embiid

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) reacts after scoring a three point basket to give his team the lead in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

Without question, Joel Embiid was the player of the game for the Sixers. Setting the tone for Philadelphia tonight, Embiid finished the game with 35 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and six blocks in just 29 minutes of work.

Despite fans and even the team being unsure if he would play in the second game of a back-to-back, Embiid showed no signs of fatigue. In fact, it was perhaps the most engaged we’ve seen last season’s MVP look so far during this young season.

Historically a slow starter, Embiid is now averaging 31 points, 10.3 rebounds, seven assists, and three blocks per game. It’s too early to put that slow-start stigma completely behind Embiid, but he’s certainly doing what he can to change the narrative.

The Sixers will enjoy a few days off now as they prepare to face the Toronto Raptors once again on Thursday at home. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 PM EST.