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When Dario Saric shines, the Sixers win

The Sixers will need Saric to step up once again with Joel Embiid sidelined against the Celtics.

Dario Saric, left, vies for a rebound with the Wizards' Ian Mahinmi during the third quarter Wednesday.
Dario Saric, left, vies for a rebound with the Wizards' Ian Mahinmi during the third quarter Wednesday.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

Joel Embiid fouled out with 2 minutes, 24 seconds to play against the Wizards on Wednesday night.

Dario Saric, who was already having a great game, went into overdrive, scoring seven points and grabbing three rebounds in the final stretch, all while the Wizards employed the Hack-a-Simmons technique to crawl back into the game.

Saric is no stranger to stepping up when Embiid is not on the floor or in tight situations. It's what he was called to do through the final months of last season.

This year, with a healthy Embiid and the addition of Ben Simmons to the lineup, Saric hasn't needed to have big nights for the Sixers to have a chance. But when Saric goes on a tear, the Sixers have been successful.

Through 20 games, Saric has had three 20-plus-point performances and all three have resulted in Sixers wins, including the 118-113 victory over Washington. Saric finished with 24 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one steal, and just one turnover against the Wizards.

At home against Orlando on Saturday, Saric chipped in 21 points and seven rebounds in the Sixers' 11th win of the season on a night when Embiid played but was under the weather and visibly affected.

In Utah on Nov. 7, with Embiid inactive, Saric turned in his best performance of the young season. He had a game-high 25 points to go with 10 rebounds in a crucial win on the road.

Thursday, on the tail end of a back-to-back, the Sixers will battle the NBA-leading, 18-4 Celtics without their star center in Embiid (not yet cleared for back-to-back action) and without their backup point guard, T.J. McConnell (bruised left shoulder). But Saric isn't worried.

"This is our opportunity to show we can play without Joel, without our second point guard," Saric said. "I think all our guys will be motivated, and I think we can beat Boston."

The cards look stacked against the Sixers for their night in Boston. The Celtics are coming off a loss to the Pistons, who are on Boston's heels for the Eastern Conference's best record. With three days of rest and Kyrie Irving leading the way, the Celtics are going to want to hold down home court.

The Sixers are injury-depleted, they'll be playing for the second night in a row, and they'll be on the road.

Robert Covington shares Saric's confidence.

"We've played without Joel before, and things went very well. It's just a mentality thing," he said.

No matter the outcome, Saric is looking forward to the matchup with the NBA's current leader.

"I've learned with two years in Philly, Boston is a special game, a rival game," Saric said. "They're number one, but that's basketball."