Em­biid pro­tects ‘Clutch’ rep

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - SPORTS - By Jack McCaf­fery jm­c­caf­fery@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Jack­McCaf­fery on Twit­ter

PHILADEL­PHIA >> At first, he was known as “The Process.”

More re­cently, Joel Em­biid has been ser­e­naded with chants of “MVP.”

But it is in prac­tice and shoot-arounds, when few are watch­ing, that he has earned a nick­name that he most wants to jus­tify.

“My team­mates,” Em­biid said Fri­day, af­ter the Six­ers’

133-132 over­time vic­tory over the Char­lotte Hor­nets, “call me ‘Clutch.’”

With that rep­u­ta­tion to pro­tect, Em­biid de­posited two free throws with 25.9 sec­onds left in reg­u­la­tion to help the Six­ers re­cover from a late five-point deficit. Then he scored five points in over­time to help them im­prove to

7-0 in home games.

“I had to make them,” he said. “They call me ‘Clutch’ for a rea­son. Had to make them.”

Em­biid made plenty Fri­day, shoot­ing 19-for-22 from the line and con­tribut­ing 42 points, 18 re­bounds and four blocked shots to the Six­ers’ fourth vic­tory in five games. He went 8-for-8 from the line in the fi­nal 2:46 of reg­u­la­tion, and mixed in a three­p­oint jumper. Then he went

3-for-4 from the stripe in the over­time.

The Hor­nets knew he was go­ing to get the ball … yet had no an­swer other than to foul.

“I can use power,” Em­biid said, happy to sign off on his own dom­i­nance. “I can use fi­nesse.”

In his two re­cent sea­sons, Em­biid seemed as likely to turn the ball over late in games as he was to make a dif­fer­ence. But with al­most ev­ery late pos­ses­sion go­ing through him, he had only three turnovers in 39 min­utes.

“I still have a lot to im­prove on,” he ac­knowl­edged. “So I am ex­cited about that.”

••• Rookie Zhaire Smith, ac­quired in a draft night trade for Mikal Bridges, has not played all sea­son due to a bro­ken foot.

While the frac­ture is heal­ing, Smith has had a set­back due to an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion to se­same. A re­cent flare-up, per­haps from food he’d con­sumed at the Six­ers’ train­ing fa­cil­ity ac­cord­ing to a source, re­quired a tho­ra­coscopy.

There is no timetable for his re­turn, but a source said it will not be in the 2018 cal­en­dar year. Among the com­pli­cat­ing fac­tors is that the

6-4 guard from Texas Tech must play him­self back into play­ing shape.

The Six­ers were aware that Smith was al­ler­gic to peanuts. But fur­ther tests re­vealed he is also al­ler­gic to other foods, in­clud­ing se­same, which a source said put him “over the top.”

For that, the Six­ers will mon­i­tor all of the food they pro­vide him at the train­ing com­plex, be­fore games and on road trips to en­sure there is no re­lapse.

•••

Af­ter a 122-97 loss Sun­day in Brook­lyn, Brett Brown knew he had some work to do. And he knew it would be more than just hav­ing the play­ers have “fun” again, as some of them men­tioned af­ter a bounce-back vic­tory in In­di­ana.

“It sounds great: ‘Let’s go back to hav­ing fun,’” Brown said. “I think there’s a busi­ness side. There’s a phys­i­cal side. There’s a se­ri­ous side that in­ter­ested me more than any­thing af­ter the Brook­lyn game. It wasn’t about hav­ing fun. Just the mere no­tion of how they re­sponded to that Brook­lyn per­for­mance is a good sign, a re­ally good sign. Now, dou­bling down and build­ing on some­thing in­ter­ests me.

“It didn’t have any­thing to do, for me, with hav­ing fun.”

•••

The Six­ers likely would not have won Fri­day had Em­biid played one tick fewer than the 39:03 he logged.

That’s a long way from even this time last year, when he was on a min­utes re­stric­tion … a limit he ab­so­lutely de­spised.

Though Brown said Fri­day that some con­sid­er­a­tion to Em­biid’s work­load could be given Satur­day, when the Six­ers play in Mem­phis, Em­biid is in no mood to ac­cept that with­out a fight.

“We waited two and a half years for this,” he said. “I’m ex­cited. I love it.” Smil­ing, he added, “If some­body tells me to take a game off, I might cut him. But I love it. I worked hard for this. The whole sum­mer I worked on my body. My con­di­tion­ing is still get­ting bet­ter. I still have a lot to do.”

•••

The Six­ers re­called Jonah Bolden from G-League Delaware, where he had been sent so he could tech­ni­cally prac­tice for a day, and the rookie for­ward played 10:57 and scored five points.

Among the rea­sons for that ac­tiv­ity was that the Six­ers are still with­out Mike Mus­cala, who is re­cov­er­ing from a bro­ken nose. Also, Wil­son Chan­dler, still re­cov­er­ing from a ham­string in­jury, was on a 15-minute limit Fri­day.

Chan­dler played 15:44 and scored eight points, shoot­ing 2-for-3 from dis­tance.

Chan­dler said he was “not sure” how long the re­stric­tions would be in place, but was con­vinced it is “not a long-term thing.”

MATT SLOCUM — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Joel Em­biid, cen­ter, gets off against Char­lotte’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, right, and Cody Zeller dur­ing the sec­ond half Fri­day. ‘Clutch’ helped the 76ers pull out a 133-132 vic­tory in over­time.

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