Here are my key takeaways and “best” and “worst” awards from the 76ers’ 112-106 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
— Joel Embiid is an easy criticism target because he wasn’t cleared to play on back-to-back nights and sat out his first two seasons. However, you have to salute the 76ers center for playing last night. His hand was noticeably swollen before the game and he had a hard time catching the ball. Yet he still played. That’s what you call a “warrior.” On top of that, the fella was ballin’, finishing with 21 points, a team-high 11 rebounds, four assists, one steal, a game-high four blocks, and three turnovers in a team-best 35 minutes, 21 seconds.
— This went down as an official NBA game, with NBA-caliber players wearing official NBA uniforms in an official NBA arena. However, the Spurs were without most of their A-list players. As a result, it felt like an exhibition game against San Antonio’s summer-league squad. The Spurs sat out all-star swingman Kawhi Leonard and point guard Tony Parker (both return from injury management), shooting guard Danny Green (left groin tightness), standout reserve guard Manu Ginobili (rest), and forward Rudy Gay (right heel bursitis).
— The Sixers aren’t complaining that the Spurs rested most of their best players. This victory extended their winning streak to three games and marked their fourth win in five games. It also pulled the Sixers within a half-game of the Indiana Pacers for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings with 45 games remaining. There are many games left to be played, but this was the type of gimme game the Sixers must win if they expect to reach the playoffs.
— Ben Simmons scored a team-high 26 points. That’s a great sign for the Sixers. The team improved to 8-2 when the rookie point guard scores 21 or more. Simmons went 10 for 15 from the foul line, and the Sixers will take that stat line every game from a guy who is shooting only 55.4 percent from the line.
— Remember when it appeared the Sixers were always on the short end when it came to disparity in free throws? Not on this night. They attempted 43, making 33. The Spurs made 20 of 23.
‘Best’ and ‘worst’ awards
— Best performance: This was a tough one, but I’m giving it to Embiid. He shot 6 for 12 from the field and made 9 of 11 foul shots en route to his 21 points.
— Worst performance: Dejounte Murray gets this one. The second-year player started at point guard for the Spurs in Parker’s absence. He failed to record an assist in 13:42 of action. Murray scored four points on 2-for-5 shooting and blocked a shot. However, he graded out at a game-worst minus-20, meaning the Spurs were outscored by 20 points when he was on the floor.
— Best defensive performance: This goes to Kyle Anderson on a night when Embiid had four blocks — all in the first quarter. The Spurs forward, who started in place of Leonard, blocked two shots and stripped Robert Covington in the open court en route to scoring a layup. Anderson did a solid job on Covington, holding the Sixers swingman to seven points on 2-for-7 shooting.
— Worst statistic: This goes to the Sixers’ blowing another 16-point lead in the second half. It’s becoming a tradition.
— Best statistic: You have to give this to the Spurs’ making 20 of 23 foul shots, 87 percent.
— Worst of the worst: It’s kind of unfair to criticize the Spurs for sitting out players, based on the injuries, recovery from injuries, and a 40-year-old (Ginobili) getting a needed day off. But the product they had on the floor was substandard, even though they made it an interesting game.