Sixers seal pivotal game against Orlando Magic, 125-113

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey, right, blocks the shot attempt by Orlando Magic’s Markelle Fultz, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 12, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

After enjoying an afternoon where they celebrated franchise legend Allen Iverson, the Philadelphia 76ers returned to their home court to face the Orlando Magic in a game with serious playoff seeding implications.

The Sixers came firing out of the gates, gaining the early lead and putting on an offensive display against the highly-regarded, Orlando Magic defense that ranks amongst the top in the league.

It was quite the night as both Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid stared, and short of a brief health scare for Joel Embiid, Sixers fans could not ask for a better outcome as the home team walked away with a 125-113 win.

Joel Embiid’s passing and shooting extravaganza

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Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) shoots in front of Orlando Magic center Goga Bitadze (35) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Joel Embiid came out of this game firing on all cylinders. Considering the playoff seeding implications, one did not have to tell him how crucial this game was.

Finishing the first quarter with 13 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, Embiid established his presence against Orlando early and often.

Embiid also showed off his range, sinking three first-half triples. The Sixers’ star big man has utilized his deep game a bit more often since returning from injury, which makes sense considering the nature of his injury. An outside shot puts far less pressure on his lower-body and decreases the likely hood of colliding his knee with another player, or basket (more on that in a minute).

What was most impressive of his performance was the decisiveness he displayed as a passer. Reading Orlando’s defense while facing constant double-teams, Embiid showed off a skill that will prove necessary if the Sixers are to make a run in the postseason. Of course, the bare minimum requirement is having Embiid at all.

Too close of a call

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid grabs his left knee after the basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic, Friday, April 12, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Toward the end of the second quarter, a sight nobody wanted to see presented itself as Joel Embiid came up limping and holding his knee after driving into the lane.

Heading directly into the lockerroom, hearts sake in Philadelphia fearing the worst as it was the very same knee that underwent the surgery Embiid returned from just ten days ago. Embiid would come out at halftime attempting to warm up his knee in hopes of a return, which he did make as the second half began.

Despite his return, it was clear his knee was limiting him as he struggled to move as his usual self, and did not even attempt to rush back to defend. After a nine and a half minute sting in the third quarter, Embiid left the game and again headed for the tunnel. Embiid would return from the tunnel with eight minutes left in the game and began to warm up, or rather test out, his knee.

Embiid would return to the game to help ensure the Sixers’ win, and though his knee was clearly still an issue, he was able to play through the pain for the sake of his team.

Postgame update on Embiid

Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid reacts after the shot during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic, Friday, April 12, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

After the game, Sixers head coach Nick Nurse addressed Joel Embiid’s in-game injury after the game:

“[The medical staff] assessed him at halftime and there was no swelling, no damage, none of that kind of stuff... he wanted to try in the second half and he was okay, now we’ll have to, again just like we do [for] everybody before every game. We’ll have to make sure we assess it again tomorrow morning and see what happens but you know, I saw him and he looked fine.”

Up next for the Sixers

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey (0) reacts after scoring during the second half of Game 4 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets, Saturday, April 22, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Sixers will wrap up the regular season with a home game against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. With this win against the Magic, the Sixers’ playoff seeding remains fully in their control.

Hopefully, Joel Embiid is good to go for Sunday’s matchup.