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The Weekly Run It Back: Sixers split four-game road trip without Joel Embiid

The Philadelphia 76ers went on the road without Joel Embiid this week, winning two of four games without the league MVP.

Philadelphia 76ers v Houston Rockets Photo by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to Run It Back! In this weekly series, we will summarize the week overall and recap each Sixers’ game from the previous week (Sunday to Saturday).

This was a big week for the Philadelphia 76ers as they embarked on a road trip without the league’s reigning MVP in Joel Embiid. Embiid suffered an ankle sprain on Dec. 22 during the first period against the Toronto Raptors. Though he finished that game, he has been out since, missing all four games this week. Paul Reed started all four games.

The week on the road kicked off on Christmas day as the Sixers traveled to Miami to take on the Heat. Despite nearly coming back from a 21-point deficit, the Heat were able to hold on. The 119-113 was more notably an uncharacteristically horrendous performance from Tyrese Maxey. Luckily, he bounced back in their next contest in Orlando, putting up 23 points to help lead the Sixers to their first win of the season without Embiid after going 0-4 without the big man this season. Maxey brought it to another level on Friday night, dropping 42 points in the Sixers’ win over the Rockets in Houston. A brutal back-to-back schedule had the Sixers in Chicago less than 24 hours later.

Another thing to note from this week is Tobias Harris getting on a bit of a roll after having struggled for a few weeks. Harris scored 20+ points in three of four games on this road trip, tacking on 15 in the final contest of the week. The last noteworthy aspect of this week was the return of Nico Batum after he had missed five consecutive games with a hamstring strain.

The big headline to watch going into next week as the Sixers return to South Philadelphia for a three-game homestand is the status of Embiid. The Sixers managed without him somewhat but his absence is monumental to say the least for Philadelphia. His next chance to get back to playing would be Tuesday night when the Sixers host the Bulls.

Miss any of the action this past week? No worries, we have you covered.

Sixers at Miami Heat, Monday, Dec. 25

Result: L, 119-113

Bell Ringer: Tobias Harris

Philadelphia 76ers v Miami Heat Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers, having trailed by 21 at one point, nearly mounted a comeback against the Miami Heat on Christmas Day, falling just short 119-113.

It was a slow start for both teams offensively producing a 26-22 Heat advantage after the first 12 minutes of play. The Sixers went eight minutes without a field goal across the end of the first and beginning of the second frame, facilitating a 22-1 Heat run that extended Miami’s lead into double-digits.

The biggest issue for the Sixers in the first half was Tyrese Maxey failing to score a single point. The Heat were constantly trapping the young guard and limiting his ability to use his speed or find space, and Maxey shot 0-for-9 as a result in the first half. Without his (or Embiid’s) production to fall back on, the Sixers were going multiple-minute chunks at a time without scoring a single point. The Heat led 63-49 at the break.

A 15-2 run in the third for the Sixers made things competitive again. Shots started falling for the likes of Mo Bamba, Tobias Harris and Kelly Oubre Jr. and suddenly the game was tied. For the rest of the third, the Sixers and Heat traded narrow leads and equalizers, ultimately ending the quarter with a 86-86 scoreline.

It remained a close affair throughout most of the fourth, but the Heat were able to pull away as time wound down, defeating the Sixers 119-113 on Christmas Day.

Maxey’s uncharacteristically bad night concluded with just 12 points on 4-for-20 field goal shooting and 3-for-6 from the line. Just a horrendously rough night for the young guard.

Sixers at Orlando Magic, Wednesday, Dec. 27

Result: W, 112-92

Bell Ringer: De’Anthony Melton

Philadelphia 76ers v Orlando Magic Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers, for the first time this season, won a game without Joel Embiid. After going 0-4 so far this season without their leader, the Sixers defeated the Orlando Magic 112-92 on Wednesday night.

Not only were the Sixers missing Embiid, still recovering from an ankle injury, but they only had Tyrese Maxey on the floor for a few minutes before he hit the bench because of picking up two early fouls. This was a crucial game for Maxey after putting up a career-worst performance in the Sixers’ last contest. A collective effort from his Sixers teammates led to a 26-25 Philadelphia advantage after one while he rode the bench. Maxey returned to the game and to his normal form with 14 points in the first half on 6-for-8 shooting to lead the Sixers to a 52-46 halftime lead. Welcome back, Mr. Maxey.

That offensive success from Maxey as well as Marcus Morris Sr. and De’Anthony Melton paired with excellent defense from Kelly Oubre Jr. in the third as the Sixers extended their lead to 84-75 headed into the fourth. The Magic continued to battle, but the Sixers were able to hold on to defeat Orlando 112-92.

Sixers at Houston Rockets

Result: W, 131-127

Bell Ringer: Tyrese Maxey

Philadelphia 76ers v Houston Rockets Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

What a win.

With Joel Embiid missing his third straight game Friday, the Sixers beat the Rockets in a thriller 131-127 in Houston.

Fred VanVleet scorched his former head coach early nailing three threes in the first quarter on his way to 17 first-half points. It wasn’t a great defensive quarter from the Sixers as they allowed 31 points thanks to poor communication and lapses.

The second quarter was all Tyrese Maxey. The young guard was ridiculous, dropping 19 of his 27 first-half points in the period. The Sixers were outworked by Houston and got crushed on the glass, 35-17. They were lucky to be down 64-63 at the half.

The third quarter started with more poor defense by the Sixers. They (rightfully) were paying a lot of attention to big man Alperen Sengun, but that allowed VanVleet and Jalen Green to get going. The Sixers also couldn’t buy a three for most of the night while the Rockets, led by VanVleet, couldn’t miss.

But the Sixers hung in the game thanks to Maxey. Then down the stretch, Patrick Beverley and Marcus Morris, Sr. came up huge as Nick Nurse opted to close the game small. Beverley came up with several big plays and Morris nailed a dagger three and was fouled on a broken play with 31.6 seconds left.

Sixers at Chicago Bulls

Result: L, 105-92

Bell Ringer: Paul Reed (leading vote at time of writing)

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers looked lethargic on the second night of a road back-to-back, falling 105-92 to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.

The Sixers started this one looking extremely worn down, allowing the Bulls to leap out to the early lead and prompting some early substitutions from Nick Nurse. It was a rough watch, with the Sixers shooting 1-for-10 from beyond the arc in the frame and 8-for-28 from the floor overall for their lowest scoring period of the season with just 17 points after 12 minutes. Luckily for Philadelphia, Chicago wasn’t doing much better to make the most of the opportunity. The first period ended with a riveting 21-17 score with the Bulls holding the slight advantage.

(Maybe a Houston-to-Chicago back-to-back is a bad idea, schedule makers... but what do I know!)

It was just going to be one of those games, it seemed. The Sixers shot just 37% from the floor in the first half yet somehow were only down eight points at the break. The game was led at halftime by the Bulls duo of DeMar DeRozan and Coby White, who each had 15 points going into the third. The Bulls extended their lead to nine headed into the final frame on the back of some excellent offensive rebounding and second-chance points.

The legs were tired, the shots weren’t falling, nothing was going quite right for the Sixers. When Marcus Morris Sr. got called for a foul for boxing out, you knew it just wasn’t their night. The Bulls went on a 15-4 run in the fourth to extend their lead and ultimately defeated the Sixers 105-92.

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