Sixers no match for Memphis Grizzlies without Joel Embiid, Seth Curry in 126-91 road loss
The Sixers, playing without injured Joel Embiid and Seth Curry, are routed by the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night, 126-91
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When it comes to dealing with injuries, the Memphis Grizzlies have a lot in common with the 76ers.
Both squads have not only had to play without their best players, but they picked up a couple of impressive victories without them.
And as fate would have it, both squads were undermanned in Monday night’s meeting at FedExForum.
The Sixers were without starters Joel Embiid (right rib soreness) and Seth Curry (right shoulder soreness). Meanwhile, this marked the eighth straight game the Grizzlies were without star point guard Ja Morant (left knee sprain and COVID-19 protocols). Memphis was without four players total in its 126-91 victory.
“They are playing hard,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said of the Grizzlies earlier in the day. “They are similar to us. They are a hard-playing, hard-nosed team. They create turnovers. . . And that’s what they do.”
The loss dropped the Sixers to 15-13 and snapped their three-game winning streak. It also extended a pair of losing streaks to the Grizzlies (17-11). Memphis now has won the teams’ last three meetings, and last eight contests at this arena.
The undermanned Grizzlies have been one of the league’s hottest teams, winning three straight and eight of nine games.
Memphis led by as many as 27 points (96-69) on Dillon Brooks’ layup with 2 minutes, 52 seconds left in the third quarter. They extended their lead to 36 points in the fourth quarter.
For Rivers, it was really not much to say about the 35-point setback.
“This is burning film, throwing it away and move on to the next game,” he said. “I thought the late scratches kind of threw us off.”
The Sixers learned that Curry wouldn’t play 20 minutes before the game. Meanwhile, Embiid was scratched right before tip-off. The PA announcer didn’t even know that Embiid was sidelined while announcing his name in the starting lineup.
But things were so lopsided by game’s end that the Sixers rested four of the night’s starters in the fourth quarter — Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond, and Tyrese Maxey.
While Embiid and Curry missed the game, Grizzlies starters Jaren Jackson Jr. (left knee soreness), Steven Adams (left ankle sprain) and Desmond Bane (left foot soreness) all played after being listed as questionable.
All three players made contributions. Jackson even scored Memphis’ first two baskets on a three-pointer and a dunk after missing Saturday’s victory over the Houston Rockets.
But Brooks was, once again, the Grizzlies’ standout.
The small forward scored on jumper, three-pointers and layups. He finished with 23 points on 9-for-15 shooting to go with six rebounds. Fourteen of his points came in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting. He sat out the fourth quarter.
Brooks made an off-balance 14-footer over Drummond with 9:21 left in the third quarter that even impressed the Sixers’ backup center. Drummond gave an “I can’t believe he made that” look after the shot went in. Then he gave a respectful nod to Brooks while running upcourt on the ensuing possession.
But Brooks wasn’t the only Grizzly to dominate the Sixers.
“All of them had it going,” Rivers said. “They got whatever they wanted. They lived in the paint. They drove wherever they wanted to. They attacked us off the dribble. They were the more physical team. They posted us when they wanted to.
“So it was one of those night where we just had no answers.”
Jackson (22 points), Tyus Jones (13) and reserves De’Anthony Melton (15) and John Konchar (11) joined Brooks as double-digit scorers.
The Grizzlies also finished with 12 steals to set a franchise record of eight consecutive games with 10 or more steals.
Embiid kept downplaying the pain in his right side.
He repeatedly grabbed the right side of his chest and stretched it out during Saturday’s home victory over the Golden State Warriors. That came one game after he was evaluated for abdominal pain on the right side. At that time, Embiid said he didn’t know the cause of the pain. It turns out the rib soreness is related to the pain.
Rivers was asked if Embiid and Curry were fine during Monday morning’s shootaround.
“I knew Seth was struggling,” he said. “Actually, a little bit of Joel, too. But we didn’t know to the extent.”
The Sixers could have used him and Curry on Monday night. They missed Embiid’s presence on both ends of the floor and Curry’s sharpshooting.
“That’s definitely a big scoring punch,” Harris said of Embiid and Curry. “With Joel, he’s been where our offensive game really flows through. So for us, it just was a tough adjustment. I thought we kind of looked a little bit lost out there a bunch of time starting in the third quarter.
“They way they defended, they are a good defensive team. They take away a lot of things in the paint. But I didn’t think we did a good enough job of executing, getting downhill and trying to pick them apart even on the defensive end.”
The Sixers made just 4 of 22 three-pointers, were outrebounded 50-38, committed 15 turnovers, with seven coming in the first quarter and allowed the Grizzlies to shoot 52.8%.
“We couldn’t get stops all night,” Rivers said. “I think what did they have what  points going into the fourth quarter. You are not supposed to win any games like that.”
Maxey paced the Sixers with 23 points on 9-for-17 shooting to go with a game-high seven assists. Harris had 12 points on 5-for-12 shooting. Thybulle finished with two steals. Reserve center Charles Bassey finished with career highs of 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks before fouling out in 22:02. This was his 12th appearance of the season.
Furkan Korkmaz started alongside Thybulle, Harris, Drummond and Maxey. Drummond started in place of Embiid, while Korkmaz replaced Curry in the starting lineup. Thybulle got his second start after shutting down Golden State’s Steph Curry on Saturday.
This marked the 11th game that Embiid missed this season.
Embiid, who had been hampered by right-knee soreness early in the season, got a scheduled off day against the Portland Trail Blazers on Nov. 1. Then he returned after missing nine games due to testing positive with COVID-19 on Nov. 27. The Sixers dropped to 3-8 in games he’s missed this season.
Due to injuries over his career, Embiid has only played six career games against the Grizzlies.
The Sixers next face the Miami Heat on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center. The Heat are 16-12 after their 105-94 road loss to Cleveland on Monday night.
“I think that’s [the first game of] back-to-back,” Maxey said. “So we move on and go on to the next one.”
After Wednesday’s matchup, the Sixers next face the Brooklyn Nets Thursday at the Barclays Center. The Sixers remain in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.