Joel Embiid is back to being his dominant self and the 76ers remain unblemished at home.
The All-Star center finished with game highs of 33 points and 16 rebounds Wednesday night in the Sixers’ 97-91 victory over the Sacramento Kings at the Wells Fargo Center. This came after Embiid was held scoreless in Monday’s loss to the Raptors in Toronto.
But, according to Embiid, Wednesday’s performance wasn’t a message.
“I don’t have to prove anything,” he said after the Sixers improved to 12-6 overall and 8-0 at home.
The Cameroonian said he has matured a lot since being drafted in 2014. He pointed out the angle to win an NBA title.
“And I’ve learned not to pay attention to it,” Embiid said of the criticism he’s received over failing to score. "It doesn’t get to me. I just do it for myself. I just do it for the organization. And I just do it my family.
“So I don’t have anything to prove to anybody. I really did not care about whatever was said after that performance. Like I said, I don’t have anything to prove to anybody.”
Matisse Thybulle, once again, showed that he is a valuable asset off the bench. The rookie guard went 5-for-5 from the field, including making a career-high three three-pointers, to finish with a career-high 15 points. Thybulle also tied a career high with four steals to go with two blocks.
Meanwhile, Ben Simmons had 10 points to go with a season-high 14 rebounds and two steals.
The Sixers finished the game without Josh Richardson and James Ennis.
Richardson sat out the second half with right hamstring tightness. This was Richardson’s third game back after missing two games (San Antonio Spurs on Friday and New York Knicks on Nov. 20) with right hip flexor tightness. He had nine points on 4-for-6 shooting to go with three assists in 17 minutes.
“At the end of the half, I took a weird step and started feeling it when I started walking back to the locker room,” Richardson said. “I did some tests and they decided it was better that I didn’t come back and play.”
Richardson said his hamstring didn’t feel great, but thinks his sitting out the second half was more precautionary. He said there’s no timetable for how much time or if he’ll be sidelined.
Ennis (zero points, one block) left the game in fourth quarter after rolling his right ankle. He suffered the injury while stepping on teammate Furkan Korkmaz’s foot on a defensive play. Asked how long he expects to be out, Ennis, who was under the weather, responded “I’m good. I just tweaked it a little bit. I’m kind of sick today. But I will bounce back."
But a lot of the focus was on Embiid, who missed all 11 field goals and went 0-for-3 from the foul line against the Raptors. He had a little less than 48 hours to think about not scoring a point against the Raptors.
While he says otherwise, Embiid appeared to fired up. It appeared that teammates made it a point to feed him the ball on the Sixers’ first offensive possession.
“He did it himself,” Simmons said. “You know how Jo is. He’s a dominant player. We love seeing like that. We love seeing him come out like that and be locked in.”
After Simmons missed a 10-foot hook shot, Embiid grabbed the offensive rebound 12 seconds into the game. Eleven seconds later, he delivered an emphatic dunk on former teammate Richaun Holmes.
Then Embiid scored on a 19-foot jumper on the Sixers’ next possession to put his team up, 4-0, 45 seconds into the game. He missed a three-pointer on the next possession, but the tone was already set.
He finished the first quarter with six points on 3-for-8 shooting to go with eight rebounds in nine minutes. Embiid had secured his 10th double-double of the season with a layup at the 8:43 mark of the half. That gave him 10 points to go with 10 rebounds.
The Sixers were rolling early on, building an 11-point cushion with 5:26 left in the half. However, the Kings battled back and took a 44-43 advantage on Dewayne Dedman’s three-pointer with 40.8 seconds before intermission.
After the lead seesawed, Raul Neto’s layup right before the halftime buzzer gave the Sixers a 47-48 advantage.
Korkmaz started in place of Richardson after intermission. However, the team got a big lift from Thybulle in the third quarter. He came in for Korkmaz with the Sixers up 58-52. With him on the floor, the Sixers got a little breathing room, opening up a 15-point cushion on his pair of foul shots with 10:52 remaining.
Thybulle scored eight points on 3-for-3 shooting -- including two three-pointers -- to go with two steals and a block while playing the final 8:17 of the third. Then after his pair of fourth-quarter foul shots, he added a breakaway dunk off a steal. He followed that up with three-pointer to put the Sixers up 90-73 with 7:53 remaining.
“I think the guys put me in good positions to make shots,” Thybulle said. “I didn’t do anything crazy. I just spaced the floor and they were able to find me and the shots fell.”
Buddy Hield paced the Kings (7-10) with 22 points, but made just 3 of 12 three-pointers.