Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.
1) Joel Embiid goes down, no “next man up” with Philadelphia 76ers. Now for a live look at the state of the Philadelphia 76ers:
Philadelphia went into 16-win Cleveland on Wednesday night and lost in a way that has summed up a disappointing season.
That started with some bad luck: Ben Simmons already was sidelined for at least a couple more weeks with a nerve impingement in his lower back, then on Wednesday Joel Embiid sprained his shoulder when he got tangled up with Cavaliers’ big man Ante Zizic.
Embiid did not return to the game after this, an MRI on Thursday will provide details and a timeline for how long Embiid may be out.
Injuries and bad luck hit every team over the course of 82 games in the NBA, but the elite teams respond. With the best teams, there is a “next man up” mentality that works.
The next man up for the Sixers should have been Al Horford — Philadelphia signed Horford last summer as Embiid insurance. Except Horford scored 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting, continuing a season that has seen him struggle with his shot and not be nearly as effective in general as he had been in Boston (and Atlanta before that).
All the guys that were supposed to step up didn’t: Horford, Tobias Harris, and Josh Richardson combined to score 30 points on 12-of-35 shooting (34.3 percent), including 4-of-14 from three. Shake Milton was the only Sixer getting things done.
Philadelphia lost to Cleveland 108-94, the Sixers seventh straight road loss (they are 9-21 away from home now). The Sixers remain the five seed in the East, unable to catch the stumbling Heat to even get home court in the first round.
Some of that has been bad luck but, on teams like Boston (keep reading down to No. 2 on this list), when one or two players go down, others step up. That has not been Philly this season.
There are more than six weeks before the playoffs start, these are the dog days of the season, and one could make the argument that there is plenty of time for the Sixers to get healthy, get on a little run, and enter the playoffs a dangerous team. But if you’re making that argument right now, you look like a dog, sitting at a table, in a burning house.
2) Meanwhile, Boston is coming together, beat Utah, and went 3-1 on a trip out West. If there’s a team that looks like it can cause problems for Milwaukee in the East — and that remains a big “if” — it feels more and more like that team is Boston.
The Celtics are without their All-Star starter Kemba Walker but, unlike in Philly, they have their next man up in the form of Jayson Tatum. He scored 33 points in a shootout duel with Donovan Mitchell, leading Boston to a 114-103 win in Utah
Boston had its other guys step up: Jaylen Brown had 20 points, Marcus Smart had 17 and keeps making shots in the fourth quarter, and Daniel Theis and the rest of the Celtics’ big men held their own against Rudy Gobert inside (Gobert has not played like his All-Star self of late, but that’s another topic).
Boston just went 3-1 on their West Coast swing, the only loss being a close game against the Lakers at Staples. The Celtics are coming together at the right time, and more than winning things just feel cohesive with this team. Our own Keith Smith summed it up well.
3) Trae Young blocks Mo Bamba’s shot at the rim. Trae Young is 6’1” and — to put it very kindly — is not exactly known for his defense.
Orlando’s Mo Bamba is 7’0” and was drafted to be the future at center in Orlando.
Watch Young block Bamba at the rim (by going behind him, but it’s still a smart play).
Good on Trae Young for the hustle, but this sums up a whole lot about Bamba to me.