Was it fatigue, acting or an actual injury scare for Joel Embiid?
The 76ers center’s teammates will tell you it was some of the first two when he fell in the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s 112-98 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. They’ll also tell you that the NBA all-star was dominating in the team’s third straight victory.
Embiid finished with a game-high 29 points to go with a career-tying 16 rebounds to record his 28th double-double of the season.
Following the game, Marco Belinelli committed to sign a free-agent deal with the Sixers for the remainder of the season, according to sources. Unable to trade the guard, the Atlanta Hawks reached a buyout agreement on Belinelli’s expiring $6.3 million deal on Friday. The 31-year-old will become an unrestricted free-agent on Monday after clearing waivers. That’s when he intends to sign with the Sixers.
Belinelli averaged 11.4 points with the Hawks this season. He is shooting 37.7 percent on three-pointers during his 11-year career. He would bring consistent long-range shooting off the bench.
But he’s joining a Sixers squad that improved 28-25 after Saturday’s win and also swept its two-game season series with Clippers. Los Angeles (28-26) had its three-game winning streak snapped.
Belinelli gave the team’s unofficial slogan a shoutout on Twitter.
TRUST THE PROCESS
— Marco Belinelli (@marcobelinelli) February 11, 2018
The sellout crowd of 20,504 at Wells Fargo Center held its collective breath when Embiid fell to the floor. He said he banged his right knee after slipping to the court while turning the ball over with 7 minutes, 38 seconds to play. Amir Johnson replaced him five seconds later. Embiid went to into the locker room, but returned to the bench moments later.
A team spokesman said that there was no official injury and Embiid returned to the court with 4:43 left.
He said fatigue played a factor in his fall onto the court.
“I tried to reach for the ball,” Embiid said. “Unfortunately, my hand got stuck inside my leg. But I was getting tired, especially in that fourth quarter. There were a couple of trips we went up and down without a lot of stops.”
Ben Simmons agreed that his teammate was tired. The point guard had mixed emotions seeing his Embiid on the floor.
“It’s, like, Joel is hurt or is he not hurt?” Simmons said. “Does he just want a breather? I was praying for the breather, which it was. So I was happy that he got up.”
JJRedick said Embiid did a good acting job.
“Joel is very dramatic,” Redick said. “I played with a lot of good actors in my career and he’s definitely in the top three. He could have a future in Hollywood if he wanted to.”
The shooting guard never thought anything was wrong with Embiid.
“So people probably bought it,” he said Embiid being hurt. “I didn’t buy it.
“There’s a difference between agony and selling like a foul. We all do it. It’s part of the game. I wasn’t concerned.”
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) February 11, 2018
Whatever the case, Sixers fans were elated that he was healthy.
Simmons added 14 points, 10 assists and five rebounds. T.J. McConnell and Redick finished with 17 points apiece. McConnell, a reserve point guard, made 6 of 7 shots — including all three of his three-pointers. Justin Anderson (12) and Dario Saric (10) also scored in double figures for the Sixers.
Lou Williams paced the Clippers with 23 points.
However, this win didn’t come without intrigue. The Sixers nearly lost a commanding 16-point second-quarter lead.
The Clippers pulled within two points (95-93) on Tobias Harris’ foul shots with 6:05 remaining.
The Sixers responded with an 8-0 run. After a Clippers three-pointer, Embiid sank a pair of foul shots to give the Sixers a 105-96 lead with 1:00 remaining. Then Redick’s three-pointer made it 108-96 with 31.7 seconds left.
Simmons iced the game with a layup with six seconds remaining to set the final score.