There's no way to replace Joel Embiid. The closest you can hope for is that your back-up center and the rest of the team step up in a cohesive way. The Sixers did just that in a nearly seamless way. This might be the only kind of moral victory the Sixers can accept this season. There wasn't one person that put in empty minutes. Amir Johnson played the most physical game of the season in Embiid's absence and Even Nik Stauskas who has not seen the court in weeks came in and put in a great defensive effort.
I guess we'll never know if my theory —if Saric would have scored 20-or-more that the Sixers would have won — would prove true against the NBA's leading team. He finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists but more importantly he was doing work on every possession and was a reliable man for the Sixers all night. He showed glimpses of the 2016-17 Dario that was so hard to keep contained. Even when he made the switch onto Kyrie Irving he held his own and was quick on his back step.
After allowing 48 points to the Wizards in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's game, the Sixers rebounded by giving a stellar defensive effort against the league-leading Celtics. It was an effort by every person involved from the depleted rotation. T.J. McConnell's presence was definitely felt when Kyrie Irving was going off for 36, but the Sixers gave it everything they had on the defensive end. At one point, when they were shooting just 39 percent, the Sixers were only four points down. They then came charging back to take the lead and give the Celtics a fight all the way to the end.
With Johnson in the starting lineup the already injured Sixers bench was even further depleted. That didn't stop Richaun Holmes, Jerryd Bayless, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot from turning up the intensity. The three players combined for 30 points and all made extremely timely plays. Holmes was a dog down low, Bayless and TLC were fire from beyond the arc. The hope is that this bench production continues into games that feature Joel Embiid.