Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid looks like an NBA MVP so far this season in the games that he's played in. And anytime he's on the floor, the Sixers' chances of pulling off a win are much higher than when he's not.
As Sixers veteran forward Tobias Harris said, "It's not rocket science." The 76ers are a better team with Embiid on the floor. Whenever a team is missing an MVP-caliber player, they are always bound to look worse.
However, the Sixers have looked flat-out bad without Embiid at times this year. Heading into Sunday night's matchup against the Indiana Pacers, the Sixers possessed an 0-4 record in games played without Joel Embiid.
As they trailed as much as 20 points in Indiana, the theory was once again proving to be true; the 76ers simply can't win without Embiid. But then the Sixers rallied. Heading into the third quarter, the Sixers trailed 63-54. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, a Sixers win seemed unlikely as they were down 13 points.
With eight minutes left to go in the game, the Sixers needed 16 points to even the score. They got there with a little over two minutes left, thanks to suffocating defense and hot shooting. From then on, the Sixers cruised to a nine-point victory over the Pacers, picking up their first win of the season without Embiid on the floor.
After the game, Tobias Harris and Sixers head coach Doc Rivers acknowledged the importance of the Sixers' bench. As guys such as Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey, Furkan Korkmaz, and Dwight Howard played a crucial role in helping form the comeback, Harris believes the outcome of Sunday's game can do wonders moving forward.
"With Joel out, we needed to find a lot of energy from different guys, and we got that energy from guys like Matisse, Furk, Tyrese, Dwight came in and was a beast on the boards and being able to control the paint," Harris said.
"There's going to be games where we don't have Joel. We have to figure it out and find a way. I thought this was a great game for us to really do that and really look each other in the eye and know that we can hold each other accountable out there on the floor. It's just that winning culture that we want to have. Night after night, we have to bring it."
Even without Embiid, the Sixers don't lack talent. Ben Simmons is an All-Star, while Tobias Harris is well on his way to becoming one. Along with those two, the 76ers have a solid supporting cast of proven talents. Winning one out of four games without Embiid doesn't exactly support that belief, but Harris thinks the one Embiid-less win can become a stepping stone for the future.
"We know as a group how talented we are," Harris stated. "[When Embiid is out], we have to figure out our flow and how we're going to play out there. It's just a big adjustment, but tonight was a good step to that. We know we struggle without him on the floor. We're a group that guys help each others' games. Joel is such an important player that helps with everyone else's game to a higher level. So, we know when we don't have him, there has to be added efforts from everybody else."
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_