If you watched the hit HBO series Westworld (you should, it’s dope), you probably remember what Anthony Hopkins’ character, Robert Ford, said about evolution. Mistakes, he argued, are the single most powerful tool of evolution, with an infinite number of them defining the world around us and the future of everything that will ever be. Hopefully, when the Sixers have completed their metamorphoses we will all look back upon the Joel Embiid-Jahlil Okafor frontcourt as a wholly benign but largely ineffective experiment.
About two hours before tipoff, head coach Brett Brown announced that the two centers would start alongside one another, with Embiid playing more of a traditional power forward role and Okafor defending the center position and posting up around the basket on the offensive end. And while the two were able to find some success working off of one another in the high-low game, the twin towers lineup took Embiid away from the place where he makes his greatest impact on both ends of the floor – at the rim. The Sixers lost Wednesday’s home meeting with the Raptors 123-114, but that final margin was narrowed by a late Philadelphia push that belied the fact that the game was out of reach for almost the entirety of the second half.
Embiid was held to his lowest scoring output of the season, scoring nine points on just six shot attempts. He also notched six rebounds to go along with a season-high five assists and two blocks in 27 minutes. Okafor played well, scoring 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting to go along with four rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes. Robert Covington led the way, finishing with a season-high 26 points and 12 rebounds while making 10 of his 20 shots and three of his seven three-point attempts on his 26th birthday. Gerald Henderson went 6-for-7 from the field and added 12 points, while Dario Saric and Nik Stauskas combined to go 0-for-5 for four points in 31 minutes between the two.
For the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan led the way with 31 points on 11-of-18 shooting. Kyle Lowry added 20 points and seven assists, and Jonas Valanciunas notched 17 points and 10 boards.
JoJo Speaks His Mind…
Embiid [1/2]: "I think for once, since I've been a Sixer, I didn't trust the process tonight..." #sixers— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) December 15, 2016
Embiid was then asked if he was looking forward to pairing w/Okafor again: "Whatever coach wants me to do, I'm going to do it."— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) December 15, 2016
Embiid Continues To Cheat The Injury Gods
This season, Joel Embiid has played with a reckless abandon that has simultaneously made Sixers fans swoon and cringe. Against the Raptors, Embiid had three scary moments. During pregame warmups, he appeared to tweak his left ankle and had to be evaluated by trainers before being cleared to return to the floor. Then, during the second quarter, he caught an errant elbow from Ersan Ilyasova and had to be taken to the locker room to stop a nosebleed. And finally, in the fourth quarter, he dove over a row of courtside seats hunting a loose ball: