Joel Embiid shook off lingering pain in his right knee, scoring 30 points and grabbing 18 rebounds to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 110-102 win over the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night.
Embiid remains hampered by a right knee that hasn’t been right since he suffered a torn meniscus during last season’s playoffs. Embiid’s numbers were off a bit compared to his careers bests, yet the seven-footer has played in every game with the Sixers. who are still without Ben Simmons.
Embiid’s health was debated to the point that some fans and media believed the center should take the game off against the winless Pistons and give him one more day of rest before the Sixers play on Saturday.
With their habit of blowing large leads again haunting the Sixers, Embiid came back in the game late in the fourth and hit a free throw to push the lead back to 10.
The 76ers watched a 14-point edge evaporate in a loss to Brooklyn in the home opener and last season’s Eastern Conference semi-final loss to Atlanta was plagued by lost leads, notably blowing a 26-point lead in a Game 5 loss.
It almost happened again after former Villanova standout Saddiq Bey buried a three that pulled the Pistons to 101-94 and another that made it 103-97.
Embiid, though, sank four free throws and a three from the top of the arc down the stretch that saved the Sixers from a complete collapse.
Embiid went through shootaround and a pregame workout feeling healthy enough to give the game a try. Embiid, who has a history of injuries, was NBA MVP runner-up last season and one strike against him was games played: He played in 51 games while Denver’s Nikola Jokic played all 72. Embiid had plenty of reasons to play – and made the Pistons pay.
Bad knee or not, he was his usual dominant self. Embiid crashed on the court several times and was even whistled for a technical foul for trash-talking Luke Garza after a rim-crushing dunk.
Embiid dumped a behind-the-back pass to Tyrese Maxey for a baseline three-pointer and a 48-43 lead. He had 19 points and 12 rebounds in the first half to send the Sixers into the break with a 52-46 lead.
Bey led the Pistons with 19 points. The Pistons missed 10 of their first 12 shots and their first seven threes and fell to 0-4.
Tobias Harris scored 17 points and Maxey had 16 for the Sixers.