By Jerry Wein
The Sixers have opened a two-game lead on the Nets and a three-game lead on the Bucks in the Eastern Conference.
Joel Embiid had 34 points in just 25 minutes and the Sixers stretched their winning streak to six games with a 135-115 victory over the Rockets.
The Sixers were up big for most of the night and their starters barely had to play in the fourth quarter to keep the NBA’s longest active winning streak going.
Houston, which has the NBA’s worst record at 16-50, lost its third straight and eighth in nine games.
“That’s one of the things we talked about, we have to win on the road and we’re doing it,” coach Doc Rivers said. “And we have to keep doing it.”
Embiid had 12 rebounds and made 14 of 16 free throws. It’s the fifth time in seven games where he has played fewer than 26 minutes. He’s glad for the rest, but knows he needs to be prepared to play much more with the postseason approaching.
“It’s good and bad,” he said. “You don’t get the full conditioning that you need for the playoff run… you want to go to the playoffs upping your load. Just to make sure you’re used to it when you get there.”
The Sixers were up by 17 after three and Dwight Howard took over at center for Embiid. The Rockets couldn’t handle him either and Howard scored eight points during a 15-8 run by Philadelphia early in the fourth that pushed the lead to 123-99 with about seven minutes remaining.
Olynyk scored 27 points and rookie KJ Martin had a career-high 23 points with 10 rebounds and six assists for Houston.
The Rockets started the game with eight players available with several players already out for an extended period with injuries, Christian Wood missing his first game with a sore right ankle and Jae’Sean Tate out due to health and safety protocols.
They were left with just seven when starter Kevin Porter Jr. left the game with a sprained left ankle eight about eight minutes left in the third.
“Everybody kind of stood out tonight considering we only had seven,” Houston coach Stephen Silas said. “For Armoni (Brooks) and (Anthony) Lamb to come off the bench and combine for 42 points is really something. We needed them. We were talking before the game that we were going to need some guys to step up and produce and they did.”