Embiid sparks 76ers to first 3-game win streak in 3 years
PHILADELPHIA — Joel Embiid has the catchy nickname, the pyro and the heavy metal entrance music fit for WrestleMania.
His Twitter tag-team partner and fellow spitting splash brother just might land him in the All-Star Game.
Embiid scored 24 points, blocked three shots and led the Philadelphia 76ers to their third straight victory, 102-93 over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.
The Sixers are on their first three-game winning streak since they won four straight from Dec. 29, 2013 – Jan. 4, 2014. Led by Embiid, the Sixers have won five of six games overall and are no longer the league laughingstock.
“I think we can beat damn near any team playing like this,” Sixers center Nerlens Noel said.
Embiid made six of 12 shots, grabbed eight rebounds and has made basketball fun again in Philadelphia. Embiid waved his arms while fans chanted “Trust the Process!” at him at the free-throw line. Embiid, the rookie center, even heard “MVP!” chants in the final minutes for his role in transforming the Sixers over the last month from cellar dwellers to a competitive team.
He has brightened the Sixers’ outlook the same way he lights up social media.
“Everyone knows his role,” Embiid said.
Hey, that’s The Rock’s line!
Embiid and WWE star Triple H (Hunter Hearst Helmsley) became social media friends this week and exchanged friendly tweets. Embiid said he was a fan of the wrestler and used his pregame intro to mimic Triple H.
Embiid walked out to the wrestler’s theme music, “The Game,” by Motorhead, cocked his head back and spewed water into the air like Triple H would before a main event WrestleMania bout.
Triple H noticed and tweeted at Embiid , “Still have to perfect the water-to-spit ratio…Not bad for a first attempt. #MopTheFloor #NBAVote Joel Embiid.”
Embiid stuffed his cheeks with water and too much spilled down his chin.
“I kind of messed up at the end,” he said, laughing. “That was the first time I did it.”
Embiid has used social media to enhance his profile, build his fan base and keep himself in contention for an All-Star spot. Embiid got the block-and-wrestling connection rolling this week when he tweeted a photo of himself with his hands around teammate T.J. McConnell’s neck and wrote, “I learned this by watching you, @TripleH.”
Triple H tweeted back , “To play the game you gotta go through The Process … #NBAVote.”
“That was amazing,” Embiid said before the game.
Embiid said he wanted to use Twitter to have fun.
“Everything I do on social media is really funny to me,” Embiid said. “I think I have the best laugh out of everybody.”
Embiid had fun earlier in the day with a quote from Miami Heat star Hassan Whiteside, who said All-Star voting was a “gimmick” and players just “make jokes on Twitter” to get votes. Embiid retweeted the quote and wrote “Hassan Whiteside #NBAVote.”
“One thing is, I want to be myself,” Embiid said. “I’m not going to change for anybody. I never hit the delete button. If I have something in my mind and I want to say it, I’m going to say it.
“In the back of my head, I think this is going to backfire at some point,” Embiid said. “When that day comes, I’m going to stop.”
Nicolas Batum scored 19 points and Kemba Walker had 17 for the Hornets.
Robert Covington and Ersan Ilyasova buried 3s and the Sixers pushed the lead back to double digits.
Hornets: Batum made 7 of 14 shots after missing two games with a hyperextended right knee. … Cody Zeller, who sat out the last game against Houston with an illness, couldn’t have felt good after getting blocked twice by Embiid. He had 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Sixers: C Jahlil Okafor, last season’s leading scorer, received yet another DNP-CD.
Walker’s first half was a dud. Walker, making his own social media All-Star push with a campaign that parodies Chuck Norris’ “Walker, Texas Ranger” TV show, missed 11 of 13 shots in the first half and all four 3s.
“I just missed,” Walker said. “I got the shots I usually take, I just missed. They did play some pretty good defense.”
The Hornets play Monday at Boston.
The Sixers play Saturday at Washington. Embiid is scheduled to sit out because he does not play the second game of back-to-backs as he eases his way back from a two-year layoff.