Injury issues lingering as 76ers face rockets

The Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid is such a force that his absence ripples through the team’s rotation as the NBA’s top scorer vying for a third straight scoring title.

Despite Embiid missing his second straight game due to an ankle ailment, the 76ers defeated the Orlando Magic 112-92 on Wednesday, continuing their winning streak at 0-4 this season when he was not available.

Embiid will miss the third game of a four-game road trip when the 76ers face the Houston Rockets on Friday. He was still receiving treatment at the team’s facility near Philadelphia as of Wednesday.

The victory in Orlando not only served as a needed result, it also provided an optimal view of how Philadelphia can thrive without Embiid dominating as usual.

“I just think that we’ve certainly got to find another style to play because it’s so different when he’s there,” 76ers coach Nick Nurse said. “Just playing better, or just playing well enough to give ourselves a chance to win is the main thing without Joel.”

The Sixers found success by utilizing a balanced attack paced by Tyrese Maxey’s 23 points, while Tobias Harris and De’Anthony Melton scored 22 apiece.

Philadelphia had been searching for that perfect blend of scoring distribution in its previous four games without Embiid.

“It’s kind of the first time for that,” Nurse said. “Start with Tobias. He had a really good tempo. He really went when it was there, he held up and kind of played with a good rhythm when it wasn’t and got to spots where he wanted to get.

“Melt, obviously, we’ll take that 4-for-7 every night from (3-point range). I think he’s a really good shooter and he needs to make some 3s for us because I think he’s had good looks this year.

“(Maxey) read the game well. He blasted in there when he saw an opening. Played through some bumps (and) got some space for some 3s when those were open. We got him off the ball a little more, so he was a recipient of some weakside stuff too.”

The Rockets struggled with injury issues as well on Wednesday, as forward Dillon Brooks’ absence was felt in a 129-113 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

Brooks (oblique strain) would have drawn the primary defensive assignment against Suns forward Kevin Durant. The Rockets were forced to pivot, and they ran multiple defenders at Durant in an attempt to make him a facilitator instead of a primary offensive linchpin.

That strategy backfired, as Durant tied a career high with 16 assists while also posting a game-high-tying 27 points.

The Rockets had their injury woes compounded when starting forward Jabari Smith Jr. departed in the third quarter with a left ankle sprain. He and Brooks will both sit out against Philadelphia.

“We’ve obviously got to have performances from the guys that are available, bigger performances,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “We’ve dealt with it a little bit this year with guys in and out, albeit a little different when you have starters missing. Other guys will get the opportunities. That’s where the depth comes in.”

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Sydney Okafor

I am so passionate about this my profession as a broadcast journalist and voiceover artists and presently a reporter at TV360 Nigeria

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