Joel Embiid’s return
Embiid played a career-high 49 minutes in a triple-overtime loss to OKC, then missed three straight games because of lower back tightness and soreness. He returned to action Saturday in Toronto after he was listed as questionable for most of the day. When he hit the floor he wasted no time getting back into the swing of things, taking the Sixers first six shots, including sinking a three-pointer. He had eight points in the first quarter and finished the night with 14 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks in 22 minutes, 57 seconds. Clearly status' of 'probable' and 'questionable' are not indications of whether or not Embiid will play, so now the hope is that he gets the right kind of rest and treatment ahead of the Sixers' Christmas Day game in New York.
Ben Simmons goes quiet in the fourth
The need for Ben Simmons to be aggressive, shoot the ball, and take more shots in general has been well established and he was putting in a lot of work through the first three quarters going 5-of-12. But the fourth quarter was especially quiet for Simmons. He attempted just one shot during his time on the floor in the final period of the game. There really wasn't any expectation for the Sixers to be able to win this game, but it would have been nice to see all involved push to the end. Simmons finished the night with 10 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds.
Jerryd Bayless’ frustration
Sometimes it seems like Bayless lets his emotions get the best of him during the game. When plays aren't going the right way, when he isn't getting favor from the officials, when his shots aren't falling, and when his teammates makes the wrong play his frustration is visible. He's not the only player that wears his emotions so clearly, but he seems guilty of letting it affect the game. His shot starts to move off target, he makes careless passes, gets angry with his teammates, and is not very careful about barking at the officials. He's been lucky to only have been charged with one technical foul this season, but it's not the fouls I worry about. I'm more concerned with how Bayless' frustration affects chemistry and flow. Bayless finished the night with six points.
Sixers problems with and without Embiid
The same problems plague the Sixers even when their franchise player is on the court. Fouls, turnovers, streaky shooting, and lapses in defense are not just things that pop up when Embiid is not playing. There's a lot of talk about the Sixers needing to figure out ways to win when their star player is sidelined, but the Sixers also need to figure out how to win and work through their issues when he's available too. The Sixers are 1-7 when Embiid does not play but even on nights when he plays the Sixers have racked up 12 losses. I know the Sixers aren't going to win every game, but their problems aren't going to disappear when Embiid hits the floor.
Dario Saric stays strong
What can Saric do to stay involved when Embiid is in the lineup? That was one of the big questions after Saric's near triple-double against Toronto on Thursday. On Saturday, Saric showed that he can still have a big impact with Embiid in the rotation. He finished with 17 points on 5-of-12 shooting to go with six rebounds, and five assists in the loss to the Raptors. He made big three's down the stretch and secured a pulled down a rebound that on the other end could have cut Toronto's lead to single digits had Bayless connected on his shot. I think that a lot of people often forget that this is just Saric's second year in the league. He, along with the rest of the Sixers, has a lot of growing to do and will continue to find ways to impact the game.