With Joel Embiid sidelined by left knee soreness on Sunday night, the Sixers played perhaps their ugliest game of the season, a 34-point loss to the Trail Blazers that wasn't even as close as the final score indicates.
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On Tuesday night in Los Angeles, Embiid was back in the lineup, and it's no coincidence the Sixers beat the Clippers, 119-113.
Up by as many as 24 points, the Sixers saw their lead trimmed to four in the fourth quarter, but they held on for the win, moving to 24-14.
Embiid had 28 points and 19 rebounds, while Ben Simmons posted 14 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Jimmy Butler had 16 points, six rebounds and four assists before being ejected for an altercation in the fourth quarter.
The Sixers finish their five-game road trip Wednesday night against the Suns (9 p.m./NBCSP). They've split the first four games of the trip.
• Embiid announced his return to the floor by promptly drilling a three-pointer from the top of the key on his first touch.
The 7-foot-3 Boban Marjanovic is bigger than Embiid, but Embiid is much, much quicker in the post.
Embiid slowed down a little offensively after scoring 15 first-quarter points, but his impact was still massive.
Even when Embiid isn't scoring, the Sixers' defense is so much better when he's patrolling the paint, deterring drives and cleaning up perimeter mistakes. You can see why he led the NBA in plus-minus during the 2018 calendar year.
• With 9:32 left in the fourth quarter, Embiid was less than pleased with how long Patrick Beverley held onto his arm on a foul. The two exchanged words, then a couple hard pushes.
Both players were assessed technical fouls.
The scuffling didn't end there. A little over two minutes later, Butler got tangled up with Avery Bradley. Butler gave Bradley a hard, two-handed shove in the throat before Simmons immediately stepped in to support his teammate.
Butler and Bradley were ejected.
• Simmons' first attempted jump shot was out of necessity. He air-balled a contested, fadeaway jumper at the end of the shot clock.
His second jumper was very much a choice. Without any hesitation, midway through the first period he stepped into a 16-foot shot from the left corner.
He missed it, but the mere attempt was encouraging to see from the standpoint of Simmons' development.
• The Sixers scored a season-high 76 first-half points, and it wasn't all because of Embiid.
Everyone was hitting shots, from Butler to Mike Muscala to JJ Redick, who had 16 points on 5 for 6 shooting in the first half.
The ball movement was also exemplary, with 20 assists on 28 made first-half field goals.
• The Sixers' 20 turnovers helped the Clippers hang around. They now have 57 turnovers over the past three games.
• He didn't have any of his patented, high-flying blocks, but Jonah Bolden gave the Sixers 15 quality minutes.
Bolden had nine points on 4 for 4 shooting, including a soaring put-back slam early in the fourth quarter, pulled down six rebounds and played solid interior defense.
Beyond this road trip, Bolden is making a good case for sticking in the rotation.
• As a unit, this was the best the bench has looked on the Sixers' road trip.
Unlike many nights this season, there weren't any players who got exposed or were obvious negatives. (Furkan Korkmaz did shoot 1 for 6, but he wasn't terrible defensively.)
Embiid's presence in the middle certainly helps make everyone look good, but the defensive effort across the board was much improved.
T.J. McConnell, a team-worst minus-38 against Portland, had 11 points, three assists, four steals and was a plus-3.
• Markelle Fultz will reportedly be re-evaluated early next week (see story). The second-year guard, who has been undergoing physical therapy for thoracic outlet syndrome in Los Angeles, was with the team for Tuesday night's game.
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