This is far from the time to wait for a prime trade acquisition to play. But the 76ers are making do thanks in large part to Joel Embiid.

The MVP candidate had a rare triple-double with 40 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists to lead the Sixers to Saturday’s 103-93 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, even as the Sixers wait on James Harden. This was Embiid’s second triple-double of the season and fourth of his career.

It was the first 40-point triple-double by a Sixer since March 18, 1968, when Wilt Chamberlain destroyed the Los Angeles Lakers with 53 points, 32 rebounds, and 14 assists.

“He was pretty good,” coach Doc Rivers said jokingly of Embiid before laughing. “Nah, he was great. I loved his energy overall. You know very aggressive, very physical. ... Joel was phenomenal obviously, and we needed every point, and just how dominant he was.

“But I thought he was great on the defensive end, too. I know he had more than zero blocks. Like I’m positive of that tonight.”

Embiid had three steals, but wasn’t credited with a block.

This marked the Sixers’ second game since acquiring James Harden and Paul Millsap from the Brooklyn Nets Thursday for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round draft picks.

Millsap also has yet to play, but being undermanned hasn’t hindered the Eastern Conference’s fifth-place Sixers (34-22).

They outlasted the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday before knocking off the third-place Cavs (35-22).

The Sixers would have loved to have played Harden against the Cavs.

But the perennial All-NBA selection has yet to make his debut because of left hamstring tightness. There’s no timetable for his return or that of Millsap, who last played on Jan. 13. The Sixers can only hope that they both return soon, as the schedule doesn’t lighten up. The Sixers have a home game against Boston (Tuesday) and a road game at Milwaukee (Thursday) before heading into the All-Star break.

“It is what it is,” Rivers said. “It will all wash out at the end of the day. We can’t pick and choose health. We can’t pick and choose trades or at least the timing of that.

“And so, you know, really the key for us is to be ready when they need to be ready.”

The game was a great example of why Embiid is an MVP frontrunner and why the Sixers wanted to get Harden to help Embiid win a title.

Embiid made 11 of 22 shots, including going 4 of 5 on three-pointers. He also went 14 of 15 from the foul line.

With the Sixers up, 103-86, Embiid exited the game to chants of “MVP! ... MVP! ... MVP!” with 2 minutes, 54 seconds remaining.

Tyrese Maxey (16 points) and Tobias Harris (11) were the Sixers’ other double-figure scorers.

“The unsung hero of the game was Tobias,” Rivers said. “That third quarter guarding [Darius] Garland. Matisse [Thybulle] had fouls, [and] needed a blow. And we were going to give him like one possession, and we actually put someone else on Garland.

“But Tobias said, ‘I got him.’ We said ‘OK, let’s see.’ He went that six-minute stretch between the end of the third, early fourth without Matisse on the floor with Tobias on Garland was absolutely huge for us.”

Garland, an All-Star point guard, paced the Cavs with 27 points. He finished with seven points on 2-for-7 shooting after intermission.

Embiid’s impact

Embiid has been playing the last two games with a banged-up right wrist. But you wouldn’t have known that Saturday night against Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen and everyone else tasked with guarding him.

The Sixers center scored nine of the team’s first 16 points. Embiid went on to make 4 of 6 shots, including going 2-for-2 on three-pointers, en route to 14 points in the quarter. He also had six assists and five rebounds while playing 10 minutes.

“Having a bad game last night, obviously, just wanted to come out with a different intensity, and kind of forget about what’s going on, as far as injuries and focusing on the game and blocking everything out,” Embiid said of rebounding from a 25-point, 19-rebound and 5-block effort Friday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He shot 8-for-25 from the field. “But, yeah, that’s a really good team. We just wanted to come out and be aggressive from the start, offensively and defensively.”

Embiid continued where he left off after subbing back into the game with 7:34 left in the half. He added 10 points on 3-for-6 shooting. His highlight was a one-handed dunk over Allen to put the Sixers up, 54-49, with 1:40 left before intermission.

“I’ve always dreamed about watching Blake [Griffin] throwing the ball in the rim without even touching the rim,” Embiid said. “Back in the day, Lob City, I’ve always thought it was extremely exciting and I’ve always wished that I could do it ...”

The five-time All-Star added 16 points after intermission.

Still no timeline

Harden arrived in the Philadelphia area earlier in the day. He and Millsap were evaluated by the Sixers’ medical team and met with Rivers, among others, at the arena. Millsap was in the building for Saturday night’s game and received a nice ovation when shown on the Jumbotron at the conclusion of the first quarter. The Sixers played a video of Harden during a break in the action early in the second quarter.

Rivers was asked if the team will have to practice before being cleared to play.

“The practice part probably won’t matter as much as the health,” Rivers said. “Let’s say he’s not ready to practice, but ready to play, we would play him anyway. It’s just when you do trades at this time of the year, there’s many times you put a guy on the floor with zero practice …

“So the moment he is cleared to play, whether we have practice in front of that or not, we are just going to throw you out there.”

When Harden does play, Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff thinks he’ll form a solid duo with Embiid. Bickerstaff’s and Harden’s paths crossed with the Houston Rockets. Bickerstaff was hired as a Rockets assistant on July 15, 2011. He became Houston’s interim coach on Nov. 18, 2015 after Kevin McHale was fired. He held the job through the rest of the season. Harden played in Houston from the 2012-13 season until he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 13, 2021.

“James is a phenomenal talent,” Bickerstaff said. “He can impact winning in a bunch of different ways. He is one of the, if not the, most complete offensive player in our game. So I’m sure Doc is over there thinking of all the things he can do, but he’s going to make this team better.

“He makes his teammates better. He’s going to make it difficult on opposing teams.”