Sixers tame Bulls behind Embiid’s 31-point triple-double

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, right, goes up for a shot against Chicago Bulls’ Andre Drummond, center, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

After missing the previous four games due to an ankle sprain, Joel Embiid as the Sixers downed the Bulls 110-97.

Suffering a loss to the Bulls in their last game of 2023, the Philadelphia 76ers were hopeful to start the new year off on the right foot. Thanks to the efforts of reigning MVP Joel Embiid, they were able to accomplish just that.

The MVP Campaign is back on!

It didn’t take long for Embiid to resume his dominant 2023-24 campaign, raking up 31 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists in just three-quarters of work. Of his now 25 games played this season, Embiid has only needed to play in the fourth quarter in 15 of those games, achieving the type of old-school load management Sixers fans have pined after for years.

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid takes a shot during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

This marks the 14th straight game where Joel Embiid has put up 30+ points and 10+ rebounds, which further increases his franchise record. According to the Sixers’ official stat account, this 14-game span is the longest in the NBA since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during the 1971-72 NBA season.

According to NBC Sports Philadelphia, Embiid has also joined some elite company as the last five players to score 30-plus points in 15 straight games.

A new-look starting lineup

As starting shooting guard De’Anthony Melton missed Tuesday night’s game due to lumbar spine soreness, a new starting lineup was born for the Philadelphia 76ers. The start of the new year would feature the first starting lineup that included both Kelly Oubre Jr. and Nico Batum, the Sixers’ top role players this season.

Philadelphia 76ers’ Kelly Oubre Jr. reacts after a basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Moreover, this lineup also included all three of the Sixers’ core starters, those being Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, and the recently returned Joel Embiid. This new starting squad was intriguing on paper ahead of the matchup and only garnered further excitement based on their performance in their first outing.

Joel Embiid’s successful night has already been discussed. Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris combined for 41 points in just 59 minutes of work. Kelly Oubre Jr. put forth a strong 16-point performance that was accompanied by three steals, and Nico Batum, while boasting the least impressive stat sheet of the starters, did any and everything asked of him as the Sixers dominated the Bulls over the first three quarters.

Adding Oubre to a lineup featuring Embiid, Harris, and Nico Batum brings an interesting amount of size, length, and athleticism alongside undersized lead guard Tyrese Maxey. While this decision was made due to Melton’s absence, Nick Nurse clarified before the game that this is a lineup he has long considered.

Could this group take the court as the Sixers’ starting lineup again? Based on their performance tonight, it should certainly be considered moving forward.

Extended minutes for the Sixers’ daycare

Thanks to the blowout the Sixers secured in the first three quarters, head coach Nick Nurse was able to roll out a lineup including several of the team’s youngest and most inexperienced players. Jaden Springer and KJ Martin both plated extended minutes, as did Ricky Council IV and Kenny Lofton Jr., who also made their NBA debuts.

Philadelphia 76ers’ KJ Martin goes up for a dunk during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Friday, Dec. 15, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Sixers’ “daycare” may be less prepared for the moment compared to the Phillies’, showing off an immense amount of rawness that allowed the Bulls to bring the gap to within 15 points. Between those four aforementioned players, the Sixers only scored four points, shooting a combined 22 percent from the floor while committing four turnovers.

Even still, there was some palpable excitement stemming from the opportunity for the Sixers’ youth. While they may not be ready for the moment yet, any opportunity the team has to get them some floor time should be encouraged.