Trust “The Process”. Trust him in the post, where pirouettes, Eurosteps, vicious spin moves and preternatural footwork leave bigs in his rearview. Trust him switching onto guards in the pick-and-roll, limiting its effectiveness. Trust him shouldering the offensive load on nights when shooters enter cold spells. Trust Joel Embiid’s rise to sheer dominance during his second year, mirroring his gunslinging counterpart decked in midnight green.
Starting in his 13th game tonight and progressing to full health, playing at 69 percent Wednesday, Embiid’s filthy per game numbers (23.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.9 blocks) don’t do his impact justice. Embiid’s team-leading 22.8 net rating, via stats.nba.com, and boasting the league’s highest DRPM at 2.95 encapsulates his importance.
Brett Brown breaking Embiid free from his constricting minutes limit and Embiid showcasing his collection of tools in crunch time has provided an important sample for his synergy with Ben Simmons and late-game IQ. Soaking in Embiid’s greatness through all four quarters, as he’s yet to pick up six fouls in any game this season,
Embiid’s scored a combined 27 points over the last two fourth quarters, devastatingly asserting his will. Additionally, his motor and defensive moments have stood out. Embiid’s consistently altering shots and dominating the glass, areas that almost every other Sixers big struggle in. Brown hasn’t solely been ultra reliant on Embiid’s presence as a scorer: he’s essential as an anchor who’s capable of venturing out to the perimeter while preventing second opportunities. Embiid’s well equipped to handle different assignments on both ends of the floor.
He’s a protean center who can morph from a face-up scorer into a facilitator for a high-low action with Simmons. Factor in how many different ways he neutralizes teams defensively, and Embiid could be the heavy hitter who can topple a Western Conference super team in due time. Seguing into tonight’s matchup, Golden State’s stable of superstars presents Embiid and the Sixers with a different challenge than Wednesday’s contest. Last Saturday, Golden State (11-4) ran roughshod in the second half and overwhelmed with quick-hitting ball movement and a formidable bench unit. Simmons sitting midway through the third quarter triggered a Warriors offensive eruption, scoring 20 points in just under five minutes.
Nick Young, who refers to himself as the Splash Brother “fresh out of the pen”, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry sparked the late third-quarter run against T.J. McConnell, a combination of Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Justin Anderson, and Robert Covington.
You really can only accomplish so much defending Kevin Durant, one of the league’s toughest defensive assignments, and Covington had moments of contesting without fouling. When Covington committed fouls, Durant converted and-1s. You almost marvel at his brilliance, and it’s a priority to prevent another 29-point outing. The new multimillion-dollar Sixers forward is facing an arduous task. Covington and Simmons are the only checks to Durant, as Dario Saric couldn’t slide with the mobile 6-foot- 10 wing. In spurts recently, Saric has been somewhat competent in the post defensively and in iso defense. Is he a possible check to Draymond Green? Yes, but switched onto anybody else should cause concern.
Also concerning is Justin Anderson’s shin injury depletes an already thin Sixers rotation and could force rookie Furkan Korkmaz into action. Brown might opt for an eight or nine-man rotation that doesn’t feature Korkmaz, but an opportunity presents itself. Korkmaz won’t replicate Anderson’s energy and length on both ends, more valuable against a formidable Warriors offense than low volume spot-up shooting without impacting other areas.
Expect heavy doses of Embiid and Simmons on offense, as they look to rebound from woeful shooting performances last time pitted against Golden State. Steve Kerr stymied Embiid, forcing him to rush his decision-making and score in traffic. Coaches strapping on their thinking caps by sending reinforcements to limit Embiid has naturally worked better than the alternative – which Luke Walton had Julius Randle cowering on the block. Kerr’s likely designing ways to make sure Embiid’s not the one at the forefront of a Sixers upset. Embiid and Simmons downing the favorites (70.2 percent, according to ESPN’s matchup predictor) amongst the Wells Fargo Center fans would be one of the most influential home victories in recent memory.
While the Sixers (8-6) have their own share of struggling shooters, Curry and Klay Thompson went a collective 5-for- 20 from deep against Boston Thursday. Having bigs avoid sagging in pick-and- roll and Covington’s defensive prowess are crucial components that could prevent the law of averages from playing its part tonight.
How to Watch/Listen
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Start Time: 7:30 p.m.