Embiid, 76ers brace for Raptors

PHILADELPHIA — Joel Embiid can only hope he has done enough to earn a spot in the NBA All-Star Game.

Certainly the Philadelphia 76ers’ first-year center has done enough to make himself the odds-on favorite to earn the Rookie of the Year award, while awakening a slumbering team.

Heading into Wednesday’s home game against the Toronto Raptors, he leads all rookies — as well as his team — in scoring (19.7), rebounding (7.7) and blocked shots (2.4).

He has done that despite averaging only 25.3 minutes. The team is limiting Embiid, the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, to no more than 28 minutes after he missed two seasons while recovering from a pair of foot surgeries.

Embiid collected 22 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks Monday as the 76ers earned a 113-104 victory in Milwaukee. Philadelphia (13-26) won for the fourth time in five games, and the sixth time in eight.

Embiid shrugged off a slow start to score 12 points in the fourth quarter.

“The first half, I didn’t have my legs,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “My legs were really heavy. I didn’t play against Washington (Saturday), so I kind of get out of shape easily. In the second half, I just got it going. I rely on my defense to get my offense going. I think I played really well defensively.”

It was Embiid’s last appearance before All-Star voting concluded later in the day. The teams will be announced Thursday and the game is Feb. 19 in New Orleans.

“He’s playing at a very high level,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd told the Inquirer. “To be away from the game and the minutes that he’s playing, he is playing at a very high level. He causes a lot of problems. He can play inside and out, and you can see that he understands how to play the game the right way.”

Sixers coach Brett Brown called the game against Milwaukee “our finest team win,” according to the Inquirer. They were without point guard T.J. McConnell (sprained right wrist) and backup center Nerlens Noel (sprained left ankle).

Noel is expected to return against the Raptors, but McConnell is not.

Toronto (28-13) beat Brooklyn 119-109 on Tuesday night, behind 36 points from DeMar DeRozan and a career-high 33 from Corey Joseph.

Joseph started alongside DeRozan in the backcourt while the Raptors rested Kyle Lowry, their starting point guard. Lowry, a Philadelphia native and Villanova product, is expected to play Wednesday.

DeRozan also contributed 11 rebounds and six assists Tuesday for the Raptors, who trail only Cleveland in the Eastern Conference standings.

Toronto is 2-0 against the Sixers this season, winning 122-95 on Nov. 28 at home and 123-114 on Dec. 14 in Philadelphia.

Lowry scored 24 points and sixth man Terrence Ross generated 22 in the first meeting as Philadelphia rested Embiid.

DeRozan led the Raptors with 31 points in the second meeting. Robert Covington countered with season highs of 26 points and 12 rebounds for the Sixers, who outscored Toronto 40-31 in the fourth quarter.