On a night when Jahlil Okafor made a rare appearance, all the attention went to Joel Embiid and his bum knee.
The 76ers announced Monday before a 122-119 victory over the Sacramento Kings at the Wells Fargo Center that Embiid would miss the game with a bruised left knee. The center will not travel to road games Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks or Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs. The Sixers said they had not determined if he would travel to face the Miami Heat (Saturday) or Detroit Pistons (next Monday).
Embiid had said he suffered a bone bruise. A source reiterated that Monday, even though coach Brett Brown said he wasn't sure.
Kings post player DeMarcus Cousins dominated in Embiid's absence. The all-star finished with a game-high 46 points. He made 11 of 16 shots, including going 4 for 6 on threes. Cousins also made 20 of 22 foul shots.
He fouled out with 58.5 seconds left while grabbing Gerald Henderson around the waist.
Henderson converted the two foul shots to give the Sixers a 118-113 lead. He later hit a pair of foul shots with 4.9 seconds left to give the Sixers a 122-119 lead. The Kings had a chance to knot the score, but Arron Afflalo front-rimmed his three-point attempt at the buzzer.
The Sixers snapped a two-game skid and improved to 18-29. The Kings dropped to 19-29.
Robert Covington paced the Sixers squad that had seven double-figure scorers with 23 points. Dario Saric added 17 points in a reserve role. Nik Stauksas made 4 of 6 three-pointers to finish with 16 points. Henderson had 15 points off the bench while making 7 of 8 foul shots.
Okafor had 15 points in 21 minutes, 38 seconds of action. He had not played in the last four games, six of the last seven and 10 of 13 matchups. The first two of his last four absences were the result of right knee soreness.
"We won, so I'm fine with how we performed," Okafor said. "I felt fine. It's my first time playing since we played Atlanta. So I thought everything went well."
The Sixers battled back from a 16-point, second-quarter deficit against the Kings. The matchup was postponed from Nov. 30, when a persistently wet floor at the arena forced the game to be called off.
The Sixers scored 42 points in the third quarter and 74 after halftime.
Embiid has missed five of the last six games since initially suffering the injury on Jan. 20 against the Portland Trail Blazers.
"There isn't anything odd going on," Brown said. "It's just that we feel like it's best for him to get him to where he needs to be and to keep him behind with the resources that we have here and the rest he can get while he's here.
"Nobody needs to feel like there's a conspiracy theory here. There isn't. We feel like we can do the best job for Joel in this environment."
Brown did admit that Embiid's knee problem is a setback. But he quickly added, "There are no red flags here."
Embiid has been dealing with his setback for 11 days.
He did not travel to Atlanta to face the Hawks on Jan. 21, the day after suffering the injury. The 22-year-old was ruled out the following two games because of the injury.
Embiid returned Friday night and scored 32 points in a loss to the Houston Rockets. Afterward, he said he came back one week to two weeks ahead of schedule. He also said that he experienced a little soreness.
On Sunday, Brown said Embiid had not come back too soon. He reiterated that Monday when asked if his star player was rushed back to play in the nationally televised game.
"It wasn't let's force-feed him into a nationally televised game," Brown said. "We were playing well. He felt well. The whole stable of doctors we had around him gave him a thumbs up.
"It didn't influence it."
However, Embiid will play in the Rising Star Challenge on Feb. 17 in New Orleans as part of the All-Star Weekend. The challenge pits the top first and second-year international players against their American counterparts.
The Sixers want him to take advantage of the opportunity, interacting with other elite players there.