Forget the Twitter discourse, Joel Embiid sure looked like an MVP Friday night.
Man, this team has a flare for the dramatics. The Sixers erased a 21-point deficit Friday to knock off the Portland Trail Blazers 120-119. Embiid’s jumper with 1.1 left sealed the victory.
Embiid dropped 39 points, including the game-winner as the Sixers turned a near-disaster into another gutsy win.
Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.
- Two polar opposite starts from three allowed the Trail Blazers to take a double-digit lead early, as they made their first six three-pointers, while the Sixers missed their first five. Jerami Grant had a good time against smaller Sixer defenders, putting up 11 first-quarter points on 4 of 5 shooting. Anfernee Simons led the Blazers after the first with 13.
- A real solid job by De’Anthony Melton to prevent the Blazers from putting up a crooked number early. He had a steal that stopped an early Portland run and went 2 of 2 from deep in the opening quarter.
- It was a weird first quarter for Joel Embiid, who shot 5 of 6 and scored 14 points, but also missed four of his first seven free throw attempts. After the fourth miss, the crowd gave him a “you got this” ovation. It was odd, but Embiid sank the next free throw. After another hot offensive start, Philly trailed by eight after the opening quarter.
- It was a mixed bag for the second unit with Harden out there as Portland started the second with another scoring surge from Simons. It didn’t help that Harden himself struggled offensively in the first half, shooting 2 of 7, including 0 of 5 from downtown. Still, a couple threes from Georges Niang kept the Sixers at just a -1 with Embiid on the bench and the Blazers lead still in single digits.
- The Sixers’ defense wasn’t great in the first quarter, but it looked absolutely lock down compared to their effort in the second. Portland made a ridiculous 65 percent of their shots in the second with hardly any resistance. While they survived the stretch without Embiid, it wasn’t long before the Sixers fell into a 20-point hole.
- Similar to their defensive effort, Philly just looked like they were playing without legs on offensive. They settled for a ton on jumpers that fell short, and shot just 36 percent from the field in the second. Harden was not the only starter with a dud in the half. Tobias Harris had only two points and was 0 of 5 from the floor. They went into the half trailing by 15.
- Philly finally got some momentum going halfway through the third quarter in the form of an 8-0 run capped off by a put-back dunk by Tyrese Maxey, and suddenly the Sixers were back in the game.
- The run was short-lived, as Portland quickly pushed the lead back up to double digits. The Sixers failed to put together enough stops to fight all the way back, but they were able to keep themselves within striking distance, heading into the fourth quarter down by 11.
- One small positive was that Jalen McDaniels finally landed that dunk he’s been trying for just about every game now, posterizing Drew Eubanks.
- Harden running the second unit was much less chaotic than the first half, and they were able to go on a little run to put some energy back in the building. The run which was largely fueled by Danuel House Jr., cut the Blazer lead to five.
As Portland seemed to do all night when the Sixers made a run, they pushed the lead back up to double digits before Embiid checked back in.
- However this season ends, it cannot be denied that this version of the Sixers have a resilience to them that previous versions just have not had. They fought all the way back to tie this one, as they’ve been doing just about every game now.
- Their crunch time offense was not nearly as sharp as it has been in recent games. A tough turnover from Embiid and a brutal offensive foul gave Portland prime chances to stay in front. Still they had a chance down one with 7.2 seconds remaining, and their best player came through.
- The Sixers have another contest at home this weekend; they’ll take on the Washington Wizards Sunday evening at 6 p.m. ET.