Em­biid works OT, pays off in 1st win

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Jack McCaf­fery jm­c­caf­fery @21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Jack­McCaf­fery on Twit­ter

PHILADEL­PHIA >> Dur­ing prac­tices and af­ter, before games and in them, through train­ing camp and through an 0-7 start to the reg­u­lar sea­son, Brett Brown had one thought. The Six­ers, he be­lieved, were ca­pa­ble of more.

Fri­day, Brown was proven correct when the Six­ers wasted a late lead in reg­u­la­tion yet played with pas­sion and bounce in over­time, de­feat­ing the In­di­ana Pac­ers, 109-105, at the Wells Fargo Cen­ter.

De­spite hav­ing hit his usual 24-minute play­ing­time re­stric­tion, Joel Em­biid was per­mit­ted an ad­di­tional 1:57 in over­time, which he put to en­ter­tain­ing use.

“I thought my time was up,” Em­biid said. “I was kind of yelling at them to let me play … and cry­ing a lit­tle bit. So they let me play and we got the win. So that was good.”

Com­plet­ing his 25-point night, the cen­ter hit two free throws with 8.6 sec­onds left to give the Six­ers their four-point lead. He had five points in over­time, and also had 17,643 roar­ing “Trust the Process” and “MVP” be­tween ex­hales of re­lief.

“The group is very tight,” Brown said. “The group is to­gether. It puts in work. And we be­lieve good days will add up. And I re­mind them of that. There is still a long ways to go. We’ve seen the end of games and tight games for a while now. But the bot­tom line is we got our first win and in the room, they feel great about them­selves. And I am very happy for them.”

Play­ing 25:45, Em­biid paced the Six­ers with 25 points, go­ing 12-for-14 from the line. He added seven re­bounds. Er­san Ilyasova and Nik Stauskas sup­plied 14 points apiece. Gerald Hen­der­son The Six­ers’ Joel Em­biid, cen­ter, cel­e­brates af­ter his team won its first game of the sea­son Fri­day night at Wells Fargo Cen­ter. had 12, Robert Cov­ing­ton 10.

With Em­biid on his usual limit and Jahlil Okafor not ex­pected to play at all, Richaun Holmes bat­tled for eight points and 12 re­bounds. Okafor, who will play Satur­day in At­lanta as Em­biid rests, did clock 2:49 Fri­day when Em­biid hit early foul trou­ble.

Paul Ge­orge bagged 26 points for In­di­ana, which had de­feated the Six­ers, 122115, in over­time Wed­nes­day in In­di­anapo­lis.

Hav­ing strug­gled all sea­son to fin­ish games, the Six­ers wasted a 100-95 lead in the fi­nal 25.4 sec­onds of reg­u­la­tion. Monta El­lis scored on a drive and added a free throw with 22 sec­onds left to draw the Pac­ers within two. Af­ter a Ser­gio Ro­driguez turnover, Hen­der­son fouled Ge­orge with 2.8 sec­onds left.

Ge­orge made both shots, Em­biid failed on a 25-foot shot at the horn, and the Six­ers had com­pleted a too-fa­mil­iar 48 min­utes.

Over­time was bal­anced, but the Six­ers took a 106105 lead on an Em­biid drive with 55.1 sec­onds left. Ge­orge missed a jumper, the Six­ers took pos­ses­sion … and kept it for a while. Though Em­biid missed a 17-foot jumper with 14.9 show­ing, he cor­ralled his own re­bound and was fouled by C.J. Miles.

Em­biid downed two free throws for the 109-105 lead, and Ge­orge and Jeff Teague each missed a des­per­ate three-point at­tempt before the horn.

“It feels great,” Em­biid said. “We had chances to make shots in the clutch and make plays in the clutch. It is a learn­ing process for us. And you have to trust it.”

••• Per­haps the Six­ers could have won with­out those bonus min­utes from Em­biid, who has been on a strict play­ing-time limit set by the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s sports-science direc­tors. Brett Brown, though, was re­luc­tant to take that risk. Was it in his mind? “Yeah,” he said, grin­ning. “I mean, no. I have to check with my lawyer and all about it. But he came in and he won the game for us. Lots of other peo­ple con­trib­uted to that, but Joel was the fo­cal point at the end.”

Em­biid will not play Satur­day night when the Six­ers visit At­lanta. But he will make the road trip and play Mon­day in Hous­ton.

••• Brown was not expecting to play Jahlil Okafor Fri­day. But some early Em­biid foul trou­ble nudged him into giv­ing the sec­ond-year cen­ter 2:49 of play­ing time in the first half.

Okafor (knee), who is also on a strict time limit, will play Satur­day in At­lanta, tak­ing Em­biid’s min­utes.

With the Em­biid-Okafor shuf­fle on, Richaun Holmes is more vi­tal. Holmes played 24:26 Fri­day and pro­vided eight points and 12 re­bounds.

“Richaun, I feel, is the most dis­ap­pointed about the op­por­tu­ni­ties that I have been able to give him,” Brown said. “We saw what he did in the pre­sea­son. He’s got pace and he plays above the rim and he has sort of that ath­letic tint to his game And I have not been able to find min­utes for him at the five spot while those two bigs are play­ing.”

••• Dario Saric, who has been in­con­sis­tent, was a fac­tor Fri­day, scor­ing eight points.

“It’s an in­fant stage of him,” Brown said. “He’s a baby in this league. I just think we are go­ing to see some swings in his per­for­mance lev­els over his first year.

“All of us should ex­pect some in­con­sis­ten­cies. But he’s such a ter­rific player. He has the abil­ity to put it on the floor. His­tor­i­cally, he has been known to be an ex­cel­lent passer. I think he’s got an in­stinct of high-lows when he is work­ing with bigs. When he flashes to the high post, he can de­liver a post feed or hit a three. I see him be­ing a very ver­sa­tile for­ward.”

••• NOTES >> The Six­ers snapped a 44-game los­ing streak in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber games. “That first win for the group is mas­sive,” Brown said. “I know it is only one, but you can take a deep breath and go fight again.” ... Af­ter the two-game road trip, the Six­ers will host Washington Wed­nwes­day.

MATT SLOCUM — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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