When Joel Embiid is on the court, the Philadelphia 76ers are a very good team — the equivalent of a 57-win team (in terms of point differential).
Just ask the Knicks how good he is — when Embiid was on the court at Madison Square Garden Christmas Day, Philadelphia outscored New York 90-65. He was defending well, hit a couple of threes, and was getting them to the line on offense. Embiid finished the game with 25 points and 16 rebounds.
However, when Embiid sits the Sixers play like a 23-win team. With or without him Philly shoots itself in the foot with turnovers.
All that played out Monday, too. The game was close much of the way because of a big night from Enes Kanter, who was a beast inside with 31 points and 22 rebounds — 11 offensive — and the Sixers turnovers late of 4-of-6 possessions kept the game close.
However, J.J. Redick had 9 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, including a couple of key threes, to help Philadelphia snap a five-game losing streak with a 105-98 road win.
While the focus was on Embiid and Redick, it was the Sixers defense that won this game, holding the Knicks to under a point per possession in scoring. As a team the Knicks shot 40.4 percent overall and 26.7 percent from three. Kristaps Porzingis had 22 points, but on 6-of-19 shooting, which included going 2-of-7 at the rim, he struggled with the physical rim protection of Embiid and other Sixers bigs. The Knicks ran some pick-and-roll plays to free KP at the nail or elbows (along the free throw line, it’s an old Dallas favorite for Dirk Nowitzki) but after he burned the 76ers a couple of times the double teams started coming. Passing out of a double not in the post is part of Porzingis’ game he needs to work on.
Kanter was the star — much to the disgust of Recep Erdoğan — as he was a beast on the offensive boards on his way to those 31 points. It evidence of what he can bring to a team. However, he struggled defensively when switched on to Embiid.
The Sixers got key minutes from T.J. McConnell off the bench, who had 15 points.
The game was a bit sloppy at points, which happens both in day games and when you put young teams on a bright stage like Christmas Day. However, what the NBA sells is stars and entertainment, and fans certainly got plenty of that.