The Philadelphia 76ers edged the Houston Rockets 131-127 on Friday night in a high-scoring affair. However, the win may have come at a steep price as superstar center Joel Embiid suffered a right ankle sprain that could keep him sidelined for some time.
Embiid Exits With Ankle Injury
Early in the second quarter, Embiid landed awkwardly after attempting a shot and immediately grimaced in pain. He hobbled to the locker room under his own power but was unable to return.
Losing Embiid for an extended stretch would be a massive blow to the Sixers’ title hopes. When healthy, he is arguably the most dominant two-way force in the league. However, Philadelphia has dealt with Embiid injuries before and will need to band together in his absence.
Joel Embiid This Season:
33.5 PPG (2nd in NBA)
Maxey Erupts for Career-High 42 Points
Despite missing their best player for over three quarters, the Sixers received a phenomenal performance from third-year guard Tyrese Maxey.
Maxey erupted for a career-high 42 points on 14-of-21 shooting. He relentlessly attacked the basket and also knocked down 6 three-pointers. Maxey scored 20 points in the first quarter alone to keep Philadelphia afloat with Embiid sidelined.
Tyrese Maxey Last 3 Games:
vs Rockets: 42 points, 6 threes
vs Knicks: 27 points, 5 threes
vs Clippers: 22 points, 10 assists
In addition to his scoring, Maxey added 9 assists and 4 rebounds. His development into a dynamic offensive weapon capable of carrying the scoring load could prove invaluable if Embiid misses extended time.
Harris Steps Up in Embiid’s Absence
While Maxey stole the show with his eruption, Tobias Harris also delivered a strong 25 point, 7 rebound performance without Embiid.
Harris knocked down five three-pointers of his own and went a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line. He was aggressive hunting his shot and beat smaller defenders in the post.
Role players Georges Niang and Shake Milton also reached double figures, scoring 12 points apiece. Their auxiliary scoring gave Maxey and Harris enough support to outgun Houston’s offense.
Sixers Defense Falters
Despite scoring 131 points, Philadelphia’s defense struggled mightily, especially in the first half. Houston put up 81 points in the first two quarters and shot a scorching 61.4% from the field.
The Rockets generated a number of wide open looks from three and capitalized by shooting 18-of-40 (45%) from deep. Houston also crushed Philadelphia on the glass, outrebounding the Sixers 46-31.
Jalen Green led the way with 29 points while Kevin Porter Jr. posted a strong 28 point, 10 rebound double-double. Big man Alperen Sengun flirted with a triple-double (21 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists).
Outlook Going Forward
According to reports, Embiid’s injury will be re-evaluated in the coming days. The Sixers will likely take a cautious approach, but any extended absence could cause them to slide down the Eastern Conference standings.
Philadelphia faces a difficult upcoming slate including games against New Orleans, Indiana, Miami and Denver. The playmaking and shot creation burden will shift heavily towards James Harden and Tyrese Maxey.
However, if Maxey can maintain anything close to the stellar level of play he showed against Houston, the Sixers may weather the storm. His development into a third star capable of erupting for 40+ points gives Philadelphia a fighting chance.
It may also force president Daryl Morey to re-visit trading veteran forward Tobias Harris to add more firepower around Harden and Maxey. Harris is in the midst of another solid statistical season but lacks the dynamic shot creation the Sixers desperately need.
The path back to title contention relies heavily on Joel Embiid’s troublesome health. But Tyrese Maxey’s emergence gives Sixers fans hope that this year’s championship window is not shut yet.
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