Furkan Korkmaz scored 24 points and Isaiah Joe had 18 points for the Sixers.
Garrison Matthews led the Rockets with 23 points.
The Sixers were slow to shake off a sub-.500 team — a familiar situation this season — and needed a 41-29 third-quarter to put some distance between themselves and the Rockets, the worst team in the Western Conference.
Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid reacts after a dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
The Rockets played without guard Kevin Porter Jr. and forward Christian Wood after they were each suspended one game for bad behavior. Porter and Wood both had meltdowns in a loss Saturday to Denver. Rockets coach Stephen Silas said it was “best for our culture” to sit the duo for a game.
Embiid was unstoppable, rocking the arena early with a Euro-step, one-handed jam that shook the arena. Embiid walked to midcourt with his arms extended and soaked in the cheers.
Embiid, who scored 30 points for a fourth straight game, played the entire first quarter and carried the Sixers to a 34-30 lead. Korkmaz, making only his eighth start, stepped in as the able sidekick and hit three 3-pointers. Korkmaz subbed for Tyrese Maxey who, along with Matisse Thybulle, entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
That left the Sixers without two key contributors.
“There seems to be a perception because you have Joel Embiid, you’re not missing guys,” acting coach Dan Burke said.
The 76ers again played a short-handed team they were expected to beat easily — FanDuel Sportsbook had them as 13-point favorites — and criticism over recent losses or slim-margin victories against weaker teams led to a terse exchange from coach Doc Rivers with a reporter after a win against Toronto.
Sure enough, the malaise continued and the Sixers trailed 63-62 at halftime. Tobias Harris shot 3 of 10 in the half and mockingly waved his arms toward the crowd for boos in his direction to get louder. When he scored a basket in the fourth that made it 112-96, he backpedaled on defense and appeared to mutter a profanity between the words “don’t clap.”
Rockets: G Eric Gordon returned after missing one game with a groin injury. … Lost their fifth straight road game.
76ers: Burke coached the 76ers for the second straight game with Rivers still in protocols. … Signed G Charlie Brown Jr. to a 10-day contract. … Embiid’s triple-double was the third of his career.
YOU NEVER KNOW
Burke said all the roster disruptions and game interruptions are making games as hard as ever to prepare for in the NBA.
“Lately, it’s becoming a Forrest Gump box of chocolates,” he said.
The Rockets play Wednesday at Washington.
The 76ers play Wednesday at Orlando.