Embiid protects ‘Clutch’ rep
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.”
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.