The 76ers kept their winning streak intact on a night they lost Joel Embiid.
Wednesday night’s 118-101 victory over the New York Knicks marked their eighth straight win. This is the team’s longest winning streak since taking nine straight from Feb. 12 through March 3, 2003. The Eastern Conference’s fourth-place Sixers (44-30) also improved to 19-1 at the Wells Fargo Center since the start of January.
“It’s a blessing just to be a part of that,” Robert Covington said of the winning streak. “We are still going. We have a lot of basketball to play. So it’s only the beginning.”
On this night, Dario Saric paced the Sixers with 26 points, a season-high 14 rebounds, five assists and two steals.
They had to finish the game without their all-star center, though. Embiid left with 11 minutes, 40 seconds left in the first half due to what the team called a facial contusion.
Embiid went through the concussion protocol and it was ruled that he doesn’t have a concussion. However, he went to a hospital for more testing. The Sixers did not give an update after the game. However, Embiid posted a video on his Instagram story feed from his hospital room late last Wednesday. In the video, Embiid’s face appears to be swollen underneath the caption”Not good.”
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) March 29, 2018
Teammate Markelle Fultz was driving around Embiid when his right shoulder crashed into Embiid’s head. He fell to the court, then sat up before laying back down.
“I was trying to go get the ball at the same time I was watching him,” Fultz said of seeing Embiid fall. “But my heart dropped, really, because I know he hit me. But he’s a tough guy and I know he’s going to be OK. All I can do is pray for him.”
Prayers with my brother🙏🏽 love you bro and I’m here with you @JoelEmbiid
— Markelle Fultz (@MarkelleF) March 29, 2018
A wobbly Embiid was helped up after a couple of minutes and taken to the locker room. In the hallway, he bent over in pain.
Fultz wasn’t sure if his head also collided with Embiid.
“I’m really worried about him,” Fultz said. “I believe he’s OK. It’s just something that’s unfortunate that happened. I’m going to go check on him.”
Embiid had five points on 2-for-6 shooting and three rebounds in 8:32 of playing time. The Sixers were already without backup center Amir Johnson, who has gastroenteritis. That left Richaun Holmes as the only available center on the roster. Reserve power forward Ersan Ilyasova backed up Holmes at center following Embiid’s injury.
Covington said he was concerned about Embiid, who has battled injuries since his lone season at Kansas in 2013-14.
“Him being down, that definitely scared us,” Covington said. “Seeing him walk off on his own, that allowed us to have some type of relief.”
Scoring three consecutive baskets, the Sixers extended their lead to 16 points shortly after Embiid left. However, the Knicks (27-49) went on a 28-12 run to knot the score at 56 with 3:12 before intermission. The Sixers went into the locker room up 67-63.
They outscored the Knicks 26-17 in the third quarter to open up a 93-80 lead.
Ben Simmons finished two rebounds shy of his 11th triple-double. The point guard had 13 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, four turnovers and one block. JJ Redick had 21 points. Covington (17 points), Holmes (15) and reserve Marco Belinelli (14) were the team’s other double-digit scorers.
Fultz had three points on 1-for-5 shooting in his second game back after missing 68 straight. The first overall pick in June’s draft also had seven assists, five rebounds, one steal and one block in 13:35.
“I felt like I had more of a rhythm [compared to Monday],” Fultz said. “I felt like when I came in, I contributed on both ends of the floor. That’s all I can ask for.”
He received a standing ovation when he first entered the game with 3:48 left in the first quarter, and the crowd cheered whenever he made a positive play. The fans also mimicked the Minnesota Vikings’ Skol chant by chanting “Fultz” while clapping their hands right before and during his foul-shot attempts with 2:47 left in the third quarter. The Sixers had an 89-77 lead after he made the first and missed the second.
“It just makes me feel more confident,” Fultz said of the cheers. “Them showing that love makes me want to play harder for them. I really appreciate it.”
The Sixers rebranded their NBA G League affiliate, changing the name to the Delaware Blue Coats from the Delaware 87ers.