Sometimes in the NBA, you have snoozers. You know, games that will put fans to sleep if they’re not careful.
Well, the 76ers had one Friday night against the New Orleans Pelicans, less than 24 hours after an emotional road win against the Boston Celtics.
They dozed off after a 39-point first quarter but awakened in time to emerge with an unimpressive, 116-109 victory over the struggling Pelicans at the Wells Fargo Center.
But a win is a win, no matter how it looks, right?
“No,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “The job that you have, I definitely don’t. To think like last night was like tonight, you win or you lose, that doesn’t weigh up.”
The Sixers improved to 20-7 and a league-best 14-0 mark at home. They also moved up to second place in the Eastern Conference, behind Milwaukee and ahead of Miami. Meanwhile, New Orleans dropped to 6-20 as their losing streak reached 11 games.
Tobias Harris led the Sixers with 31 points on 12-for-20 shooting, 6-for-7 from the foul line. Joel Embiid had 24 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, and 2 turnovers. Ben Simmons had 24 points, 11 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, and 1 turnover. Reserve guard James Ennis (10 points) was the team’s other double-digit scorer. Two-way center Norvel Pelle finished with six points on 3-for-4 shooting, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks in 12 minutes off the bench. It was his third NBA game.
“I told him if he got the minutes, he would probably lead the league in blocks,” Embiid said. “He has a chance to become a fan favorite if he keeps doing whatever he’s doing.”
Brandon Ingram led the Pelicans with 32 points.
Sixers forward/center Al Horford missed his second straight game with left knee soreness and left hamstring tightness. Kyle O’Quinn is usually the backup center when Horford and Embiid, the usual starter, are out. However, the Sixers elected to go with Pelle off the bench before O’Quinn, who played 5 minutes.
This game marked New Orleans shooting guard JJ Redick’s first game against the Sixers since leaving as a free agent after two seasons. Redick, a three-point specialist, finished with 19 points while making 3-of-5 three-pointers.
“I miss him,” Embiid said of Redick. "We kept him in check, kinda. So that was good, too. It was great seeing him again.
The Sixers missed the spacing that he provided for Embiid the past two seasons. The Sixers had a play call for Redick that they haven’t used since his departure,
“We’re just different,” Brown said. “He’s come in and he’s got this skill set of flying off pin-downs, and off-balance shots, and he takes a second of getting his shot. And it’s unique, he’s very unique to the NBA.”
Brown said he misses Redick as a person and not just as a player.
The Sixers acknowledged the 35-year-old’s return with a video tribute during a break in the first quarter. He received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd. Redick didn’t get to watch the video due to being in the huddle.
“Ben and I were talking there toward the end of the game. It was little surreal for me," he said of facing the Sixers. "He even said [it was surreal] for him, too, just to play against each other.
“So it’s always a little weird and tonight it felt weird. Hey listen, I ----ing love those guys. So it’s a little different for sure.”
Redick’s homecoming and Pelle’s blocks were among a handful of exciting things that happened while the Sixers otherwise appeared to be sleepwalking against one of the league’s worst teams.
The Pelicans pulled with four points (111-107) with 30 seconds left. After a Sixers timeout, Embiid was fouled. He split a pair of foul shots to make it a five-point cushion with 27.2 seconds remaining.
The center fouled Jrue Holiday on a three-point attempt with 21.0 seconds left. Holiday made two of three to close the gap to three points (112-109).
But Embiid and Harris combined to make four foul shots to set the final score.