It was a somber mood in Philadelphia as the 76ers played their first game at home since the death of Philly-native and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.
Ahead of tip-off, the 76ers paid tribute to Bryant and the other victims of the helicopter crash which killed Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Giannia, along with seven other passengers.
Players rocked #8 and #24 jerseys in warm-ups, while Bryant's framed No. 33 Lower Merion High School jersey was on display and emblazoned on the sideline of the court. There was also a 33-second moment of silence to honour Bryant.
The Sixers placed nine beams of light on the court and rang their ceremonial bell nine times tonight in remembrance of the nine lives lost in the helicopter crash, as well as honoring Kobe with a 33 second moment of silence, which was his Lower Merion number. pic.twitter.com/exctHsIAXU- NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 29, 2020
The names of all nine victims of the accident were displayed on the scoreboard and the pre-game bell run nine times.
Once the game tipped off, the 76ers took an eight-second violation and the Warriors followed suit, taking a 24-second violation.
The Philadelphia 76ers and the Golden State Warriors started the game by taking an 8-second backcourt violation and 24-second shot-clock violation, respectively, in honor of Kobe Bryant. pic.twitter.com/WZQnr0CJVG- NBA (@NBA) January 29, 2020
The tributes continued, with Joel Embiid wearing #24 instead of his customary #21 and the 76ers big man left it all on the floor, pouring in 24 points and 10 rebounds to lead his team to a 115-104 win to move to 31-17 on the season.
In his first game back since missing the previous nine with a torn ligament in his finger, Embiid put in a solid performance, shooting 9-of-13 from the field, bringing up his 24th point of the night with a Bryant-like fadeaway jumper!
"I didn't actually know it was my 24th point. As I shot that fadeaway, that's what it was about, I actually yelled Kobe," Embiid told reporters post-game.
"A lot of us, since I started playing basketball, that's how we've always done it. You know you shoot something in the trash, you just go 'Kobe' so that was cool. Then for it to be the 24th point and me wearing #24 means a lot."
Joel Embiid wore No. 24 tonight.- StatMamba (@statmuse) January 29, 2020
He finished the game with 24 points and 8 defensive rebounds. pic.twitter.com/hiXY8NkzU0
"It was tough," Embiid said on playing following Bryan't death.
"Me personally, when you think about where I came from and how I started playing the game, I go back to the first time I really watched basketball which was in 2010. That Finals against Boston and that's how I became a Kobe fan...I wanted to be like Kobe and I wanted to play basketball and a year later I took a lot of convincing and I finally started to playing ball.
"I've been saying since it happened, I wouldn't have been here if it wasn't for that moment and if it wasn't for Kobe I would've probably been playing volleyball somewhere, I don't know or be a doctor."
The Warriors kept themselves in the game through three quarters, but the 76ers pulled away down the stretch, leading by as many as 16 points in the final frame.
Raul Neto delivered his best performance in a 76ers uniform with a blistering first-half, recording all 19 of his points in the first half on 7-of-8 shooting. With Neto facilitating the offence and knocking down shot after shot, coach Brett Brown was able to give Ben Simmons some much-needed rest, with the Aussie only playing 8:34 in the opening half.
Simmons kept the 76ers afloat during Embiid's absence, averaging 39.5 minutes per game, leading the 76ers to a 6-3 record during that stretch.
He finished with 17 points, five assists and four rebounds, while Tobias Harris added 14 points and seven rebounds. Al Horford recorded near triple-double 12 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
For the Warriors, D'Angelo Russell led the way with 28 points, seven assists and five rebounds, while Glenn Robinson II added 20 points and five rebounds on the night as the Warriors fell to 10-38 on the season.