By Art Beitchman  

Since Joel Embiid went down and out with a knee injury 13 nights ago against the Wizards, many thought the Sixers’ downfall would follow.

But with Tony Bradley and Dwight Howard bridging the sizable void caused by Embiid’s absence the Sixers have gone 5-1, keeping their 1 ½-game lead over the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

In years past, teams would gut the Sixers at the basket without their All-Star center there. This season they tried to bulk up that position, and so far, so good.

Howard has given them stability and toughness in the paint; he’s still able to rebound and block shots at 35 years of age, and he has given them nice offensive production.

And the late-November move by Sixers head man Daryl Morey bringing in the 23-year old Bradley has paid surprising dividends.

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Bradley has given the Sixer nice production from the paint filling in for Embiid, fundamentally sound rebounding the ball, scoring the ball and protecting the rim. The North Carolina product has proven his worth since the Embiid injury.

During Tuesday night’s game at the Golden State Warriors, Bradley posted a career high 18 points, also snagged 11 rebounds with 3 blocked shots — very good numbers for a guy the Sixers acquired for Zhaire Smith, remember him!

The Sixers are rolling, having won 9 out of their last 10 games without key starters at times. Keeping the 1-seed in the Eastern Conference is the goal for a hot team looking to play for the NBA Title next June.