By Michael Donovan
Sixers fans finally have something to cheer about.
Joel Embiid, Jo Jo to his buds, has played only a handful of preseason games, and already the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft has had an effect on the long-suffering team.
Embiid had his best game yet last night, cranking out 11 points and 12 rebounds in the 76ers’ 100-79 loss to the Wizards at Verizon Center.
“M-V-P” chants from a strong contingent of Sixers fans could be heard loud and clear when Embiid made two of his trips to the free throw line (where he went 7-for-8, by the way, and is now 20-for-24 in five games).
“Joel again was the shining light,” Brown said of Embiid, who logged a pre-season high 13 minutes, 55 seconds. His playing time budget had been upped from 12 to 15 minutes.
Given the ferocity and power of Embiid’s offensive game, his highlights on that end of the floor will just about always command oohs, ahs, and Vines. The latest example came in the final 30 seconds of the first quarter, when the rookie pounded home a right-handed put back dunk over the burly Marcin Gortat.
Defense, however, especially on the glass, was what allowed Embiid to make his greatest impact. His rebounding prowess was on display early. By the time he took his first break four minutes, 55 seconds into regulation, Embiid had already accounted for all four of the Sixers’ boards.
“You continue to see that competitive quality,” said Brown. “The fact he stocks rebounds, he chases stuff down. He’s a legitimate aggressive presence at the rim.”
A particularly impressive defensive sequence involving Embiid came late in the opening half. Hedging out to the perimeter to keep an eye on former Villanova Wildcat Daniel Ochefu, Embiid suddenly found himself caught in a switch, and subsequently isolated on John Wall, one of the NBA’s fastest guards.
Embiid, however, was up for the challenge. Suffocating the All-Star, the center shuffled to his right, following Wall to the top of the arc. There, Wall attempted to gain separation with his handle, but Embiid wouldn’t budge, keeping Wall in front of him the entire time. With the shot clock expiring, Wall had no other choice than to settle for a foul-line jumper at the elbow. The step-back attempt caromed off the rim, no good.
“You saw a bunch of things,” Brown said about Embiid’s effort.
Jerami Grant paced the Sixers with 14 points (6-10 fg), 10 of which came after intermission. Richaun Holmes, who spelled Embiid throughout the first half, finished with eight points (2-5 fg) and 10 rebounds. Nik Stauskas, in his first appearance since suffering a left hamstring strain in the Sixers’ exhibition opener, deposited his lone field goal on a driving baseline slam in the second period.
Washington shooting guard Bradley Beal led all players with 22 points. Wall, in his second pre-season outing, scored nine points (4-11 fg), while handing out nine assists.
Brett Brown Said:
On the performances of Jerami Grant (14 pts), Hollis Thompson (9 pts), and Richaun Holmes (8 pts, 10 reb):
“I think that Jerami played well. I think that Hollis made some shots. Richaun continued to play hard.”