Sixers handle business on the road versus a shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies

Philadelphia 76ers guard Joel Embid (21) shoots while defended by Memphis Grizzlies guard Jordan Goodwin (4) and center Trey Jemison (55) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, April 6, 2024, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Nikki Boertman)

While most of the basketball world was focused on the Final Four, several NBA games had to be played. The Sixers went up against the Memphis Grizzlies, who have struggled in the absence of Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Jaren Jackson, Jr. 

Coming off a big road win in Miami, the Sixers faced a Grizzlies team that had only eight eligible players, including a player who just signed a nine-day contract the day of the game. Would the Sixers play down to their competition? Not the least bit. 

A dominant first-half

Memphis Grizzlies guard Xavier Simpson (2) gets caught between the defense of Philadelphia 76ers guard Buddy Heild (17) and forward KJ Martin (1) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, April 6, 2024, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Nikki Boertman)

Joel Embiid put on a clinic in the first half. In only his third game back from his knee injury, he used an inexperienced frontcourt from a depleted Memphis team to regain his game rhythm. His offensive output going into halftime was 22 points and 10 rebounds. It was the twenty-sixth time this season that Embiid had 20 points or more after two quarters.

Kyle Lowry knocked down a few threes in the first half while Maxey struggled with his shot. Off the bench, KJ Martin got solid minutes, contributing with his defense, hustle, and cutting. He got several easy baskets under the rim by being in the right place at the right time. 

Embiid did commit seven turnovers before intermission, showing he still had to shake off the rust from his dribbling and passing game. On several occasions, Embiid tried moves he would not likely make in a game with stiffer competition. His double-crossover and behind the back pass to Kyle Lowry on a fast break made it easy to conclude that the Sixers were pretty confident against an injury-ravaged Memphis squad.

Memphis had almost no recognizable names on the court all night. The biggest name on the Grizzlies was Scottie Pippen, Jr. for obvious reasons. His Hall of Fame father, Scottie Pippen, was in the stands to watch his son run the point for Memphis.

Pippen, Jr. was effective in his role, passing and scoring, particularly in the third quarter. He drove the lane, passed or scored with a confidence that could help him maintain a roster spot for next season. He had a gorgeous reverse layup at the start of the final quarter. Pippen, Jr. was the only bright spot for Memphis in this game.

“We need to keep working on ourselves and get ready for the playoffs.”

– KJ Martin in a postgame interview 

Putting Memphis away

Memphis Grizzlies guard Jordan Goodwin (4) has the ball knocked away by Philadelphia 76ers forward Kelly Oubre Jr. (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, April 6, 2024, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Nikki Boertman)

In the third quarter, Memphis made a run and cut the Sixers’ lead to 12, but a pair of Nic Batum 3-pointers on consecutive plays shifted momentum back to Philly. 

Embiid kept his foot on the gas, scoring at will and rejecting dunk attempts at the rim. At one point, an opponent was at the free throw line, with all four teammates spread out near the 3-point line. Only Joel Embiid was nearby. The young Memphis center did not even try to face up against the reigning MVP and quickly passed the ball. Embiid’s impact was tremendous despite not being in game shape.

Going into the fourth quarter, the Sixers led by 16 points. At that point, key starters were on the bench. For the remainder of the game, they stayed there. Recently signed Jeff Dowtin, Jr. and Ricky Council IV shared the court early in the fourth quarter, indicating Nick Nurse wanted to rest his starters on the first night of a back-to-back. 

Joel Embiid finished his night on the bench with 30 points in only 22 minutes. He also reached a milestone, scoring his 12,000th point. 

In one of his rare single-digit scoring games, Maxey only had eight points. Another usually potent scorer for the Sixers, Kelly Oubre Jr. finished with nine points. 

On a night when the Sixers needed to dominate early to rest its starters in the final period, they handled business. Each player on the Sixers scored in this game, increasing their current win-streak to four games. 

Up next for the Sixers

The Sixers will travel next to San Antonio, where they will face off against Victor Wembanyama and the Spurs. The tip-off is at 7:00 pm EST.