"Trust the Process," Sixers star center Joel Embiid said with a huge grin after rebounding from a poor start. Following a sluggish first half offensively, which saw a collective 26 turnovers from both teams, the Sixers (21-20) flipped their performance into a victory 89-80 over the Boston Celtics (34-12) Thursday. The teams exchanged turnovers regularly through the first 24 minutes, but Philadelphia's tandem of Joel Embiid and T.J. McConnell dominated the second half.
Embiid shot just 3-of-10 from the floor in the first half and wasn't immune to the overall turnovers, coughing up four, but the recently acknowledged starting All-Star exhibited why he deserved the nod. Early, he actively helped Trevor Booker take shots within his wheelhouse and provide Brett Brown with a contributor off the bench. Booker isn't a self creator and having a center ease him into the game was an appealing aspect of Embiid's first half.
Embiid also prevented Boston with second possessions, using his elongated arms to reel in 16 rebounds. Embiid has massive potential in the rebounding department and Boston didn't have the personnel to regularly challenge him for offensive boards. Embiid asserted himself within the arc in the second half and answered Brown's first question of who'd provide the scoring bulk amid JJ Redick's absence. Embiid controlled the halfcourt to a tune of 26 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and two blocks. As Boston mounted their second-half push, T.J. McConnell dominated the Celtics' guards with his playmaking and shooting.
McConnell and Embiid played off each other offensively, and McConnell's efficient outing (5-for-8 shooting) put the vice on a potential lead evaporating. McConnell finished with 15 points, two assists and three steals while jumping passing lanes. McConnell didn't have the enviable task of trying to limit Kyrie Irving, as the All-Star starter sat with a shoulder injury. Boston's collection of point guards churned out an uninspiring performance.
After missing his first two attempts, Dario Saric also complemented Embiid and McConnell's production with a fantastic outing of his own. Saric cut into the teeth of Boston's defense, whipped some beautiful passes while keeping his turnovers to a minimum, and tied McConnell with three steals.
Saric playing controlled, unforced basketball while etching himself into opportunities is the type of effort Brett Brown would appreciate with Redick watching in street clothes. Saric tallied 16 points and six rebounds. Both bench pieces who play with unwavering effort, Trevor Booker and Amir Johnson combined to go 5-for-5 from the floor.
Johnson prevented two scoring opportunities in the same possession with a block and charge, swinging some momentum back to Philadelphia's favor. Boston cut into Philadelphia's fourth-quarter lead to induce the stress levels of everyone and make it 86-79 but McConnell's three made free throws iced the contest. Marcus Morris and Al Horford led Boston with 14 points, as turnovers and three-point shooting affected their rhythm and consistency. The Celtics shot just 24.1 percent (7-for-29) from distance and playing without their offensive dynamo in Irving left a monumental imprint on their performance.
The Sixers host the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.