Joel Embiid led the Philadelphia 76ers to victory over the Houston Rockets despite a back issue but is not alarmed by the ongoing injury.
All-Star center Embiid has been dealing with back tightness since a fall in the win against the Los Angeles Lakers in January, though he has only missed two games.
With Ben Simmons sitting out against the Rockets due to illness, Embiid was keen to take part against the Rockets on Wednesday and he put up 31 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
It was the 26-year-old’s 12th straight game with at least 25 points, joining Allen Iverson and Wilt Chamberlain as the only 76ers players to achieve that feat.
Philadelphia led by 26 points at halftime but Houston cut the deficit to four during the final quarter, meaning Embiid was on the floor a lot longer than he had initially planned.
“It was pretty tight, but I just wanted to make sure we got the win and that’s all that matters,” said Embiid.
“I wanted to give it a shot for five more minutes [in the second half], obviously things changed and I had to adjust to it but the whole game it was pretty tight. But I’ll be fine.
“It’s not alarming. As NBA players we’re playing every single night and the body is sore, you’ve just got to take care of yourself. It’s normal.
“It’s tightness. Some days its tighter than usual, some days it’s not. After the [Phoenix] Suns game it got tighter than usual and today when we started it was tighter than usual, so it’s just some days and I’ve just got to go home and continue to do what I’ve been doing and I’ll be fine.”
The 76ers had 13 turnovers in the second half and Embiid accounted for five of those. It took the team’s total for the game to 20.
“They started making some shots, we had a couple turnovers – especially me,” Embiid said when asked to explain the Rockets’ resurgence.
“We had a stretch where at least six possessions in a row we had nothing going on and they just came back down the other end and just started making shots.
“We’ve just got to learn how to close games when needed. There’s a lot to learn but we got the win.”
Head coach Doc Rivers added: “It just got sloppy. It happens. We had a big lead, probably didn’t have a lot left in the tank.
“We really had some unforced turnovers, which you don’t like. Teams like Houston are going to keep throwing the ball at the rim and if you turn the ball over you’re going to allow them back in the game.
“I don’t think it was the pressure it was more us and we had a lot of self-inflicted wounds.”
Embiid also praised Matisse Thybulle, who thrived in the zone defense despite the absence of Simmons and had a game-high four steals.
“When you’ve got Matisse in the game, I feel like that’s our best defense. He gets his hands on everything,” said Embiid.
“I think he has the potential to be the best defender in the league, just the way he moves, the way he wins on defense. He’s got great hands, so that’s one of the reasons why we do it.
“We did it in Indiana in that fourth quarter and he completely changed the game and tonight we basically did it the whole game, he was all over the place.
“I think he has a chance, especially when it comes to All-NBA Defensive Teams.”