Entering play Monday, the Philadelphia 76ers still hold a narrow lead atop the NBA’s Eastern Conference standings, and if all goes according to plan, they will be getting their most critical reinforcement back soon and in time for the stretch run of the regular season.
The Sixers wrap up their four-game road trip with contests on Tuesday night and Thursday night against the Denver Nuggets and Cleveland Cavaliers respectively. They’ll return home to face off against the NBA’s cellar dwellers – the Minnesota Timberwolves – at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
The latest Sixers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Sixers newsletter here!
Embiid has not played in a game since going down with a scary knee injury in a tilt against the Washington Wizards on March 12. The team confirmed over the weekend that the All-Star big man has resumed “on-court basketball activities” and has been “ramping up his conditioning.”
Though Philly will likely need Embiid to be 100% healthy and effective to have a shot at taking down the stacked Brooklyn Nets in a potential playoff series, the team has played very well without him this month. They’ve gone 6-2 since the Cameroonian’s most recent injury, including a 3-1 mark both at home and on the road.
Their most recent game was a 122-112 loss against the Los Angeles Clippers, but they had allowed fewer than 110 points in the previous seven contests without Embiid, and had accomplished the feat in nine straight including games before the injury.
New Acquisition George Hill Expected to Join Team Saturday, Wait on Playing
With hours to go until last week’s trade deadline, the Sixers struck a three-team deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder and New York Knicks that landed them George Hill and Ignas Brazdeikis. The team is hoping that Hill will have an immediate impact on both the offensive and defensive end, while providing some needed depth at the point guard position.
When exactly Hill will hit the floor in a contest for the first time is still up in the air due to his ongoing recovery from February thumb surgery, but updates released on Monday were encouraging.
The 34-year-old journeyman last played on January 24. He led all players in three-point shooting a season ago at 46%.
Dwight Howard Says He Has Learned From Back-to-Back Ejections
In Embiid’s absence, one player who has had to step up big time has been Dwight Howard, and for the most part, the former Orlando Magic star has done so. In Saturday’s game against the Nuggets though, Howard will look to put an end to a dubious mini-streak of two consecutive games of being ejected.
The “streak” began last Thursday in his return to the Staples Center – a night when he and Danny Green also received their Lakers’ championship rings.
Only two nights later, Howard was at it again during the Sixers eventual loss to the Clippers.
On Monday, the boisterous Howard claimed he would do his best to keep his cool from now on and not let his team down.
According to teamrankings.com, Howard is currently pacing the NBA in technical fouls this season with 13, just ahead of Draymond Green and Russell Westbrook, who each have 11.
He has led the Association in technical fouls on three occasions. In both the 2017-2018 and 2010-2011 seasons with the Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic respectively, he finished with 25 calls, while he racked up a league-high 20 technical fouls in 2009 as well.
READ NEXT: NBA Rumors: Top 5 Sixers Buyout Candidates