Game Recap | Embiid Excellent, Fultz Rises to Occasion in Win Over LA
With a line as big as the one Joel Embiid had against the LA Clippers, it would be nearly impossible (and quite the injustice) to even remotely diminish his impact on Thursday’s 122-113 win.
But when the game, at one point thoroughly dominated by the home team, threatened to potentially go the other way, Markelle Fultz stepped up and shined.
Embiid was a lot of things - dynamic, diverse, overpowering, clutch, and ultra prolific come first to mind.
En route to a game-high 41 points (16-32 fg, 3-8 3fg, 6-9 ft), the second-highest single-game scoring total of a young, increasingly burgeoning career, the 7-foot All-Star unleashed a massive fourth quarter to ensure a timely, bounce-back victory.
As for Fultz, he turned in arguably his most impactful performance to-date, and at just the right time.
Behind Embiid’s 24 points, the Sixers were up by as many as 22 in Thursday’s first half. Then, in the third frame, their fortunes changed, falling behind by four, 84-80.
Enter Fultz, literally and figuratively.
Moments after subbing in, the 2017 no. 1 pick altered the tenor of the game, using a combination of speed and interior toughness to help the Sixers regain control.
Specifically, Fultz scored back-to-back driving lay-ups as time expired in the third quarter to give the Sixers a 90-86 advantage. His energy and spirit would prove infectious.
“You just felt the building change, you felt our team’s mode change,” said Brett Brown. “We needed that injection of energy.”
Less than two minutes into the fourth, the Sixers were ahead by double-figures, thanks to Fultz setting up Robert Covington (10 pts, 7 reb, 4 stl, 3 blk) for a 3-pointer. Fultz also found Dario Saric (5 pts, 3 reb) for a key three at the eight-minute mark.
The bucket re-established a seven-point margin.
“It was an opportunity for me to go out there and use my playmaking ability,” Fultz said. “I think I did a pretty good job.”
Down the stretch, Embiid proceeded to do his part to bring the Sixers home, 48 hours after a tough loss in Toronto.
The big man posted 15 points in Thursday’s final period. His triple with four minutes left made it a 110-103 game, and gave the Sixers enough breathing room.
Fultz’s night ended with 12 points, nine rebounds, five assists (one turnover), and a game-high tying plus-16 rating, which he shared with Embiid.
Ben Simmons supplied 14 points and 11 assists for his seventh double-double of the year, as the Sixers moved to 5-0 in South Philadelphia.
Dealing With Adjustments
Joel Embiid feasted on the LA Clippers’ frontcourt in Thursday’s opening half. Neither Marcin Gortat nor Montrezl Harrell were had any luck guarding the 24-year old, who went into the locker room with 24 points.
The total was the most in a first half for a Sixers player since Allen Iverson racked up 27 first-half points in a November 2006 game at Miami.
So, to open the second half, LA head coach Doc Rivers went deeper into his rotation, and turned to 7-foot-3, 290-pound center Boban Marjanovic. The move, initially, worked, with the Clips piecing together a 26-5 third-quarter run to surge ahead.
“We did like that matchup coming into the game,” said Rivers. “Embiid is Embiid; he’s gonna get his, he made a couple of threes, which is fine. At the end of the day we took him out of the paint. He dominated the first half with 24 points.”
While Embiid might have been kept in check in the third period, he got back to his dominant ways in the fourth. Yes, Marjanovic made life a little more uncomfortable for Embiid, but Embiid - with some posterizing dunks - had the last laugh.
But it really don't be like that most of the time. pic.twitter.com/XfyqzWO35U
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) November 2, 2018
“I had to adjust a lot with them starting him in the third quarter,” Embiid said. “In the third quarter, I was just pump faking. He’s taller than me and he’s longer than me so you have to use your quickness and in that fourth quarter I think I used my quickness well. I have to give credit to the coaching staff and my teammates too.”
More on Markelle
During Markelle Fultz’s game-changing stint off the bench that bridged Thursday’s third and fourth quarters, he served as the Sixers’ lead ball handler for a good eight minutes or so, before Ben Simmons joined him on the court midway through the final frame.
Brett Brown has repeatedly expressed the belief that Fultz is most effective when he’s the one holding the keys to the car. Fultz’s role in Thursday’s win only reaffirmed that notion.
“He is best, at this stage of his career, with the ball,” said Brett Brown. “We continue to see why he was drafted No. 1. When he’s got the ball, he’s pretty unique and pretty special in the open court and finding people and so on. So we’ve been trying to put him in that environment as much as we can, with the ball as a point guard.”
Since opening night of the regular season, Fultz has committed two turnovers or less in eight straight games. He’s also recorded double-figures in points in three of three Sixers’ past four outings.
Even more, the team liked how he defended and held his own against some feisty veteran LA Clippers guards.
“I feel like he brought us back to life,” said Ben Simmons. “The way he was playing was amazing. Defensively, I think he is locked in a lot more. He is more aware just being on the floor. Certain guys have a switch where you can turn it on and just make plays for the team. I think just the way he plays, he took what they gave him and he was able to just finish and execute.”
Success in South Philadelphia
All five of the Sixers’ wins so far this season? Earned at The Center.
Each game has also been sold out, which is par for the course, given the type of home support the club received in 2017-18.
“It’s great,” said Joel Embiid. “It’s Philly, these fans can be tough on you so when they show up to the games you have to play to win and you have to play for them, you have to satisfy them and that’s what we are doing.”
So much so that Embiid heard a few rounds of “M-V-P” chants when he toed the foul line late in Thursday’s game.
“I stated, before the season that I wanted to be MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. I just thought tonight, defensively, as a team we did a great job believing in ourselves and following the concepts and we did a great job today. Me personally, that’s what I want. I want to be the Defensive Player of the Year and if I have the chance, be MVP.”
‘Gram of the Game:
In Thursday's’ first half, Joel Embiid certainly came hungry.
The Sixers will close out a stretch of playing four out of five games at home Saturday at The Center. It’ll be a matinee re-match (1:00 PM) with the Detroit Pistons, which, just a week and a half ago, outlasted the Sixers in overtime at Little Caesars Arena. Blake Griffin went for a career-high 50 points in the tilt, which Ben Simmons missed due to lower back tightness.