During the All Star break, All Star duo Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were both exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Thus making them having to quarantine, which is why they missed Thursday night’s game. But thankfully, the Philadelphia 76ers couldn’t have done a better jpb without the duo as the Sixers cruised past the Chicago Bulls in their first game after the All-Star break, a 127-105 victory.

Embiid’s replacement, Tony Bradley, scored 14 points on seven-for-seven shooting and had five rebounds and three blocks. While Matisse Thybulle tied his career-high with five steals. Tobias Harris posted 24 points on eight-for-15 shooting. 

If Embiid returns a negative lab-based PCR coronavirus test tomorrow, he will be cleared to play against the Washington Wizards Friday night. The earliest Simmons can return to team activities is Saturday.

Here are three takeaways:

Replacement starters play like stars 

Bradley started for the first time since Jan. 31 Thursday night and played like an everyday starter. He was looked sharp as he slammed in a dunk after he rolled to the rim off of a dribble handoff with Harris and banking in a nice jump hook over Wendell Carter Jr. 

We knew heading into this season that rebounding was a strong suit for Bradley, but he showed Thursday that he has some offensive skill, too. 

Embiid was watching and he was impressed by what he saw from Bradley.

Gotta love Embiid when the king takes to Twitter.

Thybulle, who started in Simmons’ place, was excellent from the start, picking up four first-quarter steals and stopping just about everything the Bulls tried to do on offense. Possible future but probably not Sixer Zach LaVine didn’t score until Thybulle went to the bench. LaVine had 19 points on seven-for-16 shooting in the game. Saying that Thybulle is capable of being a star while also creating disruption away from the ball remains very impressive.

Entering this game, both Thybulle’s 3.2 steal percentage and 2.6 block percentage were the best among NBA wings, per Cleaning the Glass, and it’s an outlier.

Not every performance has an impact on the March 25 trade deadline, obviously, but I’ll simply say that the Sixers appreciate Thybulle’s special defensive talents and view him as more than a decent young player, as they should. His ability to defend top perimeter scorers still projects as very valuable in the playoffs.  Not that it was necessary for him to have a positive impact, but Thybulle’s jumpers were falling, too. He scored a season-high 13 points on five-for-five shooting. The man can do it all!

Not 50 points, like Doc said, but a great night nevertheless

When being asked before the game what the Sixers hoped to see from Harris, head coach Doc Rivers said, “50 points would be great, you know.” That’s the amount Embiid scored the last time the Sixers played the Bulls, his career-high, and obviously not a realistic goal.

Harris was on that pace in the first quarter, missing his first five attempts, but he didn’t lose any aggression. He took eight first-half free throws, making seven. 

Despite the slow start on defense, Harris had his way against the fourth overall pick Patrick Williams, playing the way of a veteran star. The Sixers didn’t need him to be too much because of what they got from Thybulle and Bradley, but Harris deserves a lot credit for leading the way offensively without Simmons and Embiid. 

Strong game for the bench

Philadelphia’s bench helped turn the tide in the second half of the team’s win over the Jazz before the All-Star break. Dwight Howard actually made a three-pointer during a productive stint, helping the Sixers have a chance to beat Utah.

Led by an aggressive Furkan Korkmaz (16 points) and a physical Howard, the second unit picked up where it left off in Chicago. Howard didn’t convert every opportunity near the hoop, missing a dunk and chucking the ball out of bounds on one play where he thought he’d been fouled, but he stuck to his strengths and was largely effective.

When he’s playing well Howard is still a problem for the opposition — just like frigging 10 years ago — and not just because of his regular off-ball jostling. He posted a season-high 18 points, 12 rebounds, and two blocks.

Though former Sixer Thaddeus Young had 14 points in 17 minutes, making it difficult to handle for Howard and Bradley, though the Sixers’ bench outscored Chicago’s 55-33. Rivers used a nine-man rotation, with Tyrese Maxey not appearing until the game was decided in the fourth quarter. 

Upcoming matchup

The 25-12 Sixers will face off against the 14-21 Wizards in Washington Friday night at 8:00 P.M. E.S.T.