Joel Embiid weighs in on Sixers at halfway point: 'We've got everything we need'

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  • Boston Celtics
    Boston Celtics
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  • Philadelphia 76ers
    Philadelphia 76ers
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  • Joel Embiid
    Joel Embiid
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Embiid weighs in on Sixers at halfway point: 'We've got everything we need' originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Sixers’ Dec. 15 loss to the Heat was the last game Joel Embiid didn’t lead the team in scoring. Tyrese Maxey notched 27 points that night in a home defeat.

A month later, here are the essentials for Saturday’s game between the 24-17 Sixers and 27-15 Miami: 

  • When: 8 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7:30 p.m. 

  • Where: FTX Arena 

  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus 

  • Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app 

Embiid weighs in on state of Sixers

The Sixers’ win Friday over the Celtics was the team’s 41st game of 82 scheduled this season, meaning it was a decent time to reflect.

Embiid hasn’t been reluctant to criticize both himself and teammates, but he offered a positive view on the Sixers. 

“I feel great,” he said. “A bunch of teams had COVID issues, but we had COVID issues. Any team without their best player, it’s going to be hard to win. But when I look at where we are when we’ve got most of the team healthy — and especially me in the lineup — I think we are 21-9. That’s not bad. That’s up there with the best records in the NBA. All that tells me is we’ve just got to stay healthy, keep doing what we’ve been doing. 

“We’ve struggled a little bit offensively, but during this stretch we’ve been very good offensively, just moving the ball. These guys, they just allow me to do what I do best offensively and defensively. But I feel pretty good, and I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball yet. We’ve still got a long way to go. We’re missing guys here and there that could really help us. There’s really no urgency to change anything. I think we’ve got everything we need. We’re going to keep on going. I’m happy.”

The Sixers are indeed 21-9 when Embiid plays and 3-8 when he’s out. Outside of the nine November games Embiid missed with a serious case of COVID-19, it’s true the Sixers have been one of the league’s top teams.

The apparent subtext of Embiid’s comment is that the Sixers aren’t in a bad place heading into the Feb. 10 trade deadline and he’s not putting public pressure on Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey to trade Ben Simmons. Embiid’s view on that subject matters. That said, Embiid complaining about the roster and insisting Morey deal Simmons immediately would’ve been a shocker.

Embiid was asked whether, as things stand, the Sixers are good enough to reach their ultimate goal.

“I think so,” he said. “I think we’ve all got to be our best. And when we are at our best, I think we can beat anybody. We’ve seen it a couple of times this year. So I just think I need to keep doing what I’ve been doing. 

“And then obviously we need consistency from everybody, not just Tobias (Harris) or Tyrese (Maxey) or Seth (Curry) or Danny (Green) — guys coming off the bench … getting Shake (Milton) back. We need consistency and everybody coming in every single night with the goal of just doing their job and chipping in offensively and defensively — just playing together. And we’ll be fine.”

Right back at it  

A home-road back-to-back that involves an overnight flight is never ideal.

“To get in before 4 a.m. would be nice,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said Friday night. “This a tough back-to-back, but it is what it is. And we’re going to get on the plane as quickly as we can, get there, get our rest. We’ll be ready. … The quicker we can get there, the better.”

The Sixers are 1-3 so far on the second night of back-to-backs. They were 8-6 in those spots last year. 

Though Miami will also play for a second straight evening, the team got to stay in Florida after beating the Hawks. A victory would be the Heat’s fifth in a row, while the Sixers can pick up 10 wins over their last 12 games. 

More zone coming up

Green (right hip pain), Milton (back contusion) and Matisse Thybulle (right shoulder soreness) are out. Rivers doesn’t think Milton will be back “anytime soon,” he said. Thybulle sustained his injury during Friday's win.

Miami should be healthier than for this season’s first meeting with the Sixers, which six Heat players missed. Jimmy Butler returned Friday from a three-game absence with a right ankle injury and scored 23 points, including an important lefty layup down the stretch. Bam Adebayo (right thumb surgery) is still out, though ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported he is targeting Monday as his first game back from right thumb surgery. Omer Yurtseven has benefited from Adebayo’s absence and recorded double-digit rebounds in 13 consecutive games. 

Rivers and the Sixers expect to see zone defense, just like they did from Boston. The team struggled against Miami’s zone last month, failing to consistently find gaps and get Embiid regular touches. Thybulle had no points on 0-for-5 shooting and the Heat showed minimal respect for his offensive game. Furkan Korkmaz looks likely to take on an important role Saturday with Thybulle sidelined.