Sixers survive Hornets as Joel Embiid continues to make history

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Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid celebrates after their win against the Charlotte Hornets in an NBA basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

In the second game of a back-to-back down south, the Philadelphia 76ers faced a severely shorthanded Hornets team as they looked to finish their short road trip on the right note. The Sixers were shorthanded in their own right without De’Anthony Melton, Robert Covington, Patrick Beverley, Jaden Springer, and Mo Bamba.

From the early moments of the game, both teams looked the part of a squad playing on the second night of a back-to-back. It was a battle simply to create any semblance of offensive consistency by both Charlotte and Philadelphia. Particularly from deep, both the Sixers and Hornets struggled mightily throughout the game on the offensive side.

As the second half came, the Hornets began to make their push, outscoring the Sixers by five in the third and entering the final quarter with a four-point lead. Philadelphia found themselves on the precipice of losing to a team on the other end of the Eastern Conference standings.

Thanks to the efforts of Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris, the Sixers narrowly escaped with the win, their fifth straight dating back to Jan. 12. Little truly stood out for Philadelphia on a night where the team performed as poorly as they did, but there was the matter of one Sixer who has continue to smash straight through historical precedents.

A historic season

Following up on his 2022-23 MVP campaign, Joel Embiid has taken his game to yet another level. It’s rare for a player to have the scoring prowess of Joel Embiid, especially for a big man in the modern NBA. But Embiid has made a habit of scoring in bunches on any and every given night.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid celebrates after their win against the Charlotte Hornets in an NBA basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

It has seemingly become second nature for Embiid to score 30-plus points in a game, and Saturday night against the Hornets was simply business as usual. The one difference was that the game against Charlotte would mark his 20th straight game, scoring 30 or more points. Something which has only been accomplished by two other players in the history of the NBA.

Embiid’s season has been full of meeting or exceeding historical numbers. Whether it was his 30-point and 10-rebound streak, which tied Kareem Abdul Jabar for the second longest in the NBA, or becoming one of four players to average 35-plus points and 10-plus rebounds through their first 30 games of a season, Embiid has been keeping elite company this season as he is positioned quite well for a potential second consecutive MVP trophy.

Those personal accomplishments will always mean something, but Embiid has made it clear he’s more focused on winning games and postseason glory than personal accolades this season. Without the aid of Tobias Harris in this game, the Sixers came dangerously close to losing what should have been an automatic win.

Tobi-time in Charlotte

So often, Tobias Harris fails to receive his due praise. Throughout this season, Harris has been key in various games or for certain stretches as the Sixers continue their climb to the top of the Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris passes between Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier and forward P.J. Washington during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Against the Hornets, Harris scored 10 points in the fourth quarter en route to his 21 total points, marking his fifth game scoring 20-plus points this month. Many will always attempt to discredit his impact as it does not quite match up against the contract he signed back in 2019.

Regardless of his salary, Harris has continued to prove invaluable to the Sixers both on and off the court, often providing a needed scoring punch, defending one of the opposition’s top offensive threats (see his recent work on Domantas Sabonis and Nikola Jokic), or providing a sense of stability to the locker room.

As the trade deadline approaches, rumors of Haris’ involvement in the trade market have come round yet again. Despite these rumors, expect Harris to remain with Philadelphia past the deadline and

Up next for the Sixers

The Sixers head home for a matchup against the San Antonio Spurs before hitting the road for an extended trip away from Philadelphia.

San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama, right, goes up to try to block the shot of Portland Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant, front left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Thursday, Dec. 28, 2023. AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

This will mark the Sixers’ first matchup against French phenom Victor Wembanyama. The 2023 No. 1 overall pick has made his mark in his rookie season, although it’s yet to translate to wins. The matchup between Wembanyama and Joel Embiid is certain to be one of the most exciting of the entire season.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 PM on Monday, Jan. 23.