Joel Embiid Stars, 76ers Sink Clippers, 109-105

Blake Griffin and Lou Williams couldn’t quite counter the Philadelphia center.

How important is Joel Embiid to the Philadelphia 76ers? In his 36 minutes on the floor, his team beat the Clippers by 23 points. In his 12 minutes off it, they nearly gave it all back.

The transformational big man earned 32 points, 16 rebounds, and a little bad blood as the Sixers sent the Clippers spiraling into their sixth consecutive loss, 109-105.

Embiid’s rampaging post play drew increasingly aggressive double-teams from the wayward Clipper defense, and the Spurs-modeled 76ers shredded them with energetic cutting and liberal passing.

Early defensive breakdowns allowed the Sixers to net three buckets off inbounds passes and a gaudy 20 points in the paint IN THE FIRST QUARTER. DeAndre Jordan (2 points, 5 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 0 free throws attempted) had a game to drink away, mercifully fouling out in the fourth quarter after having spent much of the game watching a Philadelphia parade to the basket. When he wasn’t allowed to spectate, he struggled with Embiid’s physical play — hence the six fouls — and leapt at air after a jawing Joel baited him with an early pump fake.

Embiid jawed a lot, and it drew LA’s ire in his first-ever game against the Clippers. He and Willie Reed took part in some extracurriculars early in the second quarter, and the big Clipper earned a flagrant foul after throwing the young Philly center to the floor. Roughly 90 seconds later, the Sixers led by 14 and the Clippers’ trundling offense looked to go down in a laugher.

Enter Blake Griffin. The Clippers’ own star made the second quarter his own, attacking the middle and scoring 16 of his 29 points. Aided by Blake’s scoring binge and a rash of Philadelphia turnovers, the Clippers entered the half trailing by just 2.

The third quarter came in runs. 11-2 for Philadelphia early. Then the Clippers answered with a 14-2 spell of their own to take the lead. Philadelphia Head Coach Brett Brown’s habit of resting Embiid early in halves brought Amir Johnson and his minus-19 rating to the floor. Sparked by the youthful exuberance of rookies Sindarius Thornwell and Jawun Evans, the Clippers repelled each 76er wave and regained a small lead on a Sam Dekker putback before heading into the fourth.

If the Clippers had held onto this game, then the lead story would’ve recounted how Blake Griffin owned the second quarter and the fourth belonged to Electric Lou. Lou Williams torched the nets with 16 of his team-high 31 points in the final frame, splashing 3 of his 5 threes. Lou’s defense isn’t always the most attentive, but he kept his hands up consistently enough to bag 5 steals, contributing to a sterling stat line that included 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 8 made free throws.

Lou had his shot at the late-game heroics too. After Robert Covington (31 points, 9-12 FG, 5-8 3PT, 8-8 FT, and a LOT of defense) hit from his favored spot on the left wing, Lou missed a mirroring look from the opposite end of the floor.

An Austin Rivers three followed by two Covington free throws brought Lou one final opportunity with 10 seconds remaining and the Clippers trailing by a trey. With no timeouts, the hot-handed reserve slithered his way around the floor where he was wrapped up by none other than Joel Embiid before he could attempt a shot. When Lou’s intentionally missed second free throw found its way into Covington’s hands, the game was over.

Embiid’s heady play was the appropriate climax for his star turn. Those 36 minutes played marked his season high. Behind their loquacious seven-footer, the Philadelphia 76ers are finally turning good process into positive results.

Notables:

  • Ben Simmons rattled off a 22/12/4 line on 9-of-14 shooting. Ho hum. The 6’10” point guard is long, lithe, and a handful. He’s a blur in transition. He’s relentless in the half-court. Take away his favored left and he goes behind the back for a righty finish, as Thornwell was unfortunate to find out. He swallowed up Austin Rivers, helping to hold the Clipper guard to 11 points and 3-13 shooting. He’s ascending.
  • Willie Reed also fouled out of this one. That was 12 — count ‘em, 12 -- fouls on the Clippers’ centers.
  • Clippers’ two-way player C.J. Williams appeared briefly in the third quarter, making his season and NBA debut.

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