The Philadelphia 76ers were supposed to be the sleeping giant that had woken for the NBA’s restart in Disney World.
Well, the East’s sixth seed had a nightmare on Sunday (AEST) as two starting players clashed, before they fell to the Indiana Pacers 127-121.
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T.J. Warren stole the show; draining 53 points to give the Pacers the win, and consign the Sixers to the worst possible start in Orlando.
But it was a clash between Joel Embiid and starting point guard Shake Milton that was the most worrying sign for a 76ers team that don’t have the time, or the talent, to be dealing with chemistry issues at this point of the season.
The two were going back-and-forth during a sloppy sequence to end the first quarter, with things boiling over as the period came to a close.
Milton had to be held back by rookie Matisse Thybulle; the guard clearly set off by whatever Embiid said to him.
“It’s basketball,” Embiid said after the game. “Everybody makes mistakes. It happens. We’ve gotta communicate better. As players, it happens everywhere.
“… You discuss what’s going on and you move on, you find a solution. But it’s nothing. It happens. It happens on every team and you just figure it out and you move on, and I’m sure everybody’s going to be better moving forward.”
Milton, supposedly the Sixers’ answer at point guard after moving Ben Simmons to power forward, didn’t score in his 19 minutes.
Embiid scored 41 points on 15-of-23 shooting and grabbed a game-high 21 rebounds for the Sixers, who sit a game behind the Pacers in the Eastern Conference.
Tobias Harris added 30 points and Australian guard Simmons had 19 points and 13 rebounds in a losing cause.