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The Sixers outlast the Clippers 122-113

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A possible blowout victory almost turned into a loss after a rough third quarter, but the Sixers are 5-4.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

When you take a 20-point lead in the first half, you usually feel pretty good about your team’s chance of winning a basketball game. But from the moment Joel Embiid went to the bench with his third foul during the first half, things changed, and by the middle of the third quarter, the Clippers had come back and gone in front.

But then another funny thing happened — the Sixers didn’t give up. They put a lineup of Embiid/Muscala/Shamet/Redick/Fultz in the game with the lead down to four, and the bleeding stopped. The lead grew. Things were looking good.

It was a competitive game from that point on, but the Sixers ultimately pulled it out, 122-113.

Here are some key stats:

Joel Embiid: 41 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks

Ben Simmons: 14 points, 11 assists

Robert Covington: 10 points, seven rebounds, four steals, three blocks

Markelle Fultz: 12 points, nine rebounds, five assists, one steal

Fultz had a team-best plus/minus of 16, as he gave Philadelphia some really good minutes and seemed to be able to get to the basket with ease whenever he wanted.

How’d it all go down

Let’s just talk about a few things, quarter-by-quarter.

First: Philadelphia led by four after one quarter. Some issues with fouls that got Danilo Gallinari to the line a little too much, but Robert Covington also drained this extremely long three-pointer:

Aside from that, we got a chance to see the trio of Ben Simmons, Landry Shamet, and JJ Redick. Coming into tonight, the three had played just eight minutes together all year, but they had a net rating of 30.5.

Second: This was where things started going very right for Philly. Fultz driving to the basket. Embiid hitting threes. Landry Shamet being very good at what he does. The lead ballooned up to 20 at one point, but then Embiid headed to the bench. By the half, the lead was down to 72-57.

Third: I will not just put a bunch of angry emojis here. Boban Marjanovic got a lot of run early in the quarter; he ended up scoring 11 points on the night on 5-for-7 shooting, grabbed nine rebounds, blocked three shots, and generally just did things that helped the Clippers climb back into the game. On the other side, the Sixers couldn’t make a basket. Dario Saric was notably struggling at this point. Philadelphia temporarily put Amir Johnson in, but eventually they went ahead and put that lineup that I mentioned in the introduction into the game and it helped turn the game around.

Fourth: Speaking of lineups, Philadelphia gave fourth quarter minutes to one we hadn’t seen this year: Saric/Covington/Shamet/Simmons/Fultz, with Fultz doing much of the ball-handling. I asked from the Liberty Ballers Twitter account what people thought of it:

You can check out the comments, but mostly people seemed to like it. I do too, because you can give Simmons some time in the post, put the ball in Fultz’s hands, and surround them with three guys who can shoot. (Yeah, Saric couldn’t really shoot on Thursday, but in the grand scheme of things he can shoot.)

That lineup didn’t close the fourth quarter, but it was an important part of helping the Sixers close out the victory.

The Sixers host the Pistons (4-3) on Saturday in an early one. Don’t sleep in, because it starts at 1 PM. Can Philadelphia make up for the one-point overtime loss they suffered earlier this season? Can they hold Blake Griffin under 50? We’ll find out Saturday.