Embiid shakes off sprained hand, Sixers edge Spurs
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid shook off a sprained right hand that nearly kept him out of the lineup to score 21 points, grab 11 rebounds and lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 112-106 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.
The Sixers snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Spurs. They needed all 35 minutes from Embiid to knock off short-handed San Antonio.
Embiid suffered the injury in a hard fall Saturday against the Suns. Philadelphia’s leading scorer and rebounder sat as his locker before the game and said his hand was swollen and he couldn’t shoot.
Embiid used a soft touch to sink a couple of shots during pregame drills, and that was enough to convince the Sixers he could play through the injury.
The Sixers blew a 16-point lead and might have been thumped from the outset had the Spurs not sat five players.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich benched Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Rudy Gay with his team playing the second of back-to-back games.
Ben Simmons put the Sixers ahead 106-103 on a goaltended basket and free throw. JJ Redick buried a long jumper — with an assist from Embiid — and Simmons shook the rim with a dunk that brought the fans to their feet and sealed the win.
Coach Brett Brown had all but ruled out Embiid before the game.
“When you see it, you see the bruising on his palm,” Brown said. “When you go back and look at how he fell, you’re surprised that’s all it is. It’s a club hand. And it’s his shooting hand.”
The Sixers had been used to playing without their cornerstone center. He missed his first two seasons with foot injuries and was limited to 31 games last season. He’s missed nine of Philadelphia’s 37 games this season.
“If you told us ... he was going to play this amount of games and minutes, we’d all be quite pleased,” Brown said.
Embiid had a hand in the 76ers’ fast start. He grabbed a rebound and had a putback basket for the first score of the game and had six points and six rebounds in the first quarter.
He slammed home an alley-oop in the third and never even looked at his hand as he sank a free throw to finish the play.
Spurs: Patty Mills led the Spurs with 26 points and LeMarcus Aldridge had 24 points and 14 rebounds.
76ers: Soccer star Carli Lloyd rang the ceremonial Liberty Bell to start the game. ... Simmons had 26 points and Redick scored 20.
Markelle Fultz, the No. pick of the 2017 draft, appears close to playing again after missing two months with right shoulder soreness. Fultz has played in only four games this season, all as a reserve. He participated in both 4-on-4 half-court drills and light 1-on-1 work this week at practice. Fultz struggled with his mechanics when he did play, and his shooting form was widely mocked around the NBA.
Brown said he had not determined how Fultz would be worked into the rotation when he did return.
“I’m excited because he completely connects the dots to what we don’t have,” Brown said. “Anybody that can create their own shot, anybody that can create something for somebody else is of extreme value to the collection of what we do. That is his skillset.”
Brown was all smiles when he caught up with his good friend and former boss in Popovich. Brown joined the Spurs as a member of their basketball operations department in 1998-99 and was a member of the Spurs organization for all four of their championship seasons (1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007).
“That program is a machine,” Brown said.
Popovich said Brown was the right coach for the job and to handle the painful, ongoing rebuild in Philadelphia
“It’s the fortitude, the patience that he’s exhibited in such a consistent manner in tough circumstances for several years,” Popovich said. “I don’t know of a coach that I’ve ever run into that could handle that adversity and stay so positive and continue to teach.”
Brown entered Wednesday with a 92-272 (.253) career record in four-plus seasons with the Sixers.
Spurs: Host Phoenix on Friday.
76ers: Host Detroit on Friday.
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