Boy, did the Sixers need to take care of business after multiple lackluster efforts against shorthanded teams.
They did just that with a professional road victory over the undermanned Wizards, 117-96, at CapitalOne Arena Sunday night. On the back of yet another dominant Joel Embiid performance, the Sixers got back over .500 at 17-16.
Andre Drummond, Shake Milton and Danny Green remain in the league’s health and safety protocols, while Georges Niang made his return after a four-game absence after dealing with COVID. Ben Simmons (personal reasons) remains out.
Bradley Beal, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and former Sixer Raul Neto are all in health and safety protocols. Rui Hachimura (conditioning) has yet to make his season debut and Thomas Bryant remains out as he recovers from surgery (left ACL).
The Sixers continue a brief three-game road trip to close out 2021 in Toronto against the Raptors Tuesday, followed by a matchup against the Nets on Thursday.
Here are a few observations from Sunday’s game.
- Man, this team needs Joel Embiid to be great every night to compete. That’s not ideal nor is it fair to the perennial MVP candidate. He got off to another strong start, pushing the ball up the floor himself on multiple possessions in the first — one resulted in a nice running layup over Daniel Gafford and another allowed him to pass the ball and establish excellent post position to draw an and-one on Gafford. He had 13 first-quarter points. The rest of the Sixers had 12.
- Matisse Thybulle got off to a strong start defensively, getting deflections, drawing a foul on Gafford while fighting through a screen and corralling Sixers killer Spencer Dinwiddie.
- Once Thybulle checked out, Dinwiddie got going a bit vs. Tyrese Maxey. Montrezl Harrell provided a boost with Gafford in foul trouble. The Wizards in general just moved the basketball so much better than the Sixers early on.
- Good to see Furkan Korkmaz take four early threes and make a pair. The Sixers desperately need a spark from the bench and from three-point range. Korkmaz provided both early. As a team, it was great to see the Sixers finally start to make threes. Niang also nailed a pair early in his return.
- Transition defense ... yuck.
- We’ve all heard the expression going from “good to great” as far as moving the ball and finding shots. The Sixers might be the best team in the NBA at going from “good to exceedingly difficult.” Tobias Harris and Seth Curry are the biggest culprits, but it seems to infect the entire roster when one guy starts doing it.
- Embiid was outstanding with a game-high 18 points and helped the Sixers take a 63-55 lead into the locker room.
double team doesn't matter. pic.twitter.com/ahMrFdLAcc— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) December 27, 2021
Harris had a strong second quarter where he scored 11 of his 15 points using his size to bully some of the Wizards’ smaller wings. Curry got a ton of great looks, but he was just off to start the night (2 of 10) — though he did dish out five assists. Maxey struggled finding his offense with Embiid, Curry and Harris in the lineup, but did have a couple nice drives late in the second quarter.
Korkmaz provided 11 big points off the bench.
- Excellent start to the third quarter. Embiid’s defense showing up in a big way, then a pair of transition threes from Maxey and Curry. Suddenly, the Sixers built a 12-point lead.
- Thybulle had Dinwiddie in hell. The veteran guard’s frustration showed.
- This is some of the best offensive basketball we’ve seen from the Sixers in a long time. They found mismatches, got the ball to Joel in good spots and took the open looks that were there. They built a lead as large as 19. Feels like it’s been a while since we’ve been able to say that.
- Tyler Johnson does a lot of good veteran things. I’m not sure how they do it, but I wouldn’t hate him getting a longer look beyond his 10-day hardship deal.
please note the Maxey float. ✍️ pic.twitter.com/FcxkYj11KV— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) December 27, 2021
- And we’ve got some fireworks! On an offensive possession, Embiid bumped Harrell causing Harrell to fall down. Harrell then got up and gave Embiid a hard — and perhaps unnecessary — foul. Embiid took exception and the pair of bigs had words and had to be separated. Double technicals were assessed. Kudos to Johnson for stepping in and grabbing Harrell.
- A few possessions later, Embiid finished an and-one and screamed “AND-ONE!” in the vicinity of Harrell. Harrell proceeded to push Embiid, to the delight of the Sixers’ big man, who waved Harrell off the court after the Wizards’ big man was ejected for getting his second technical. What a delight Joel Embiid is.
- Johnson nails a timely three. The guy is just a hooper.
- Embiid had 29 and 10 ... through three quarters. The Sixers won the third, 29-17, and took a 92-72 lead into the fourth. That was their most dominant quarter in quite some time.
- It would’ve been nice to give Embiid the rest of the night off as you embark on a three-game road trip. Alas, the big man was forced to re-enter to the game with the Wizards getting to within 13. The Sixers then scored five quick points — a Maxey floater and a Curry transition three after a great steal by Thybulle — to push the lead back to 18 midway through the fourth.
- Embiid just had zero mercy on Gafford down the stretch. He checked out for good with just under four minutes left with 36 points (12 of 17), 14 rebounds and two blocks in just over 30 minutes.
- A fun exclamation point as we get a Jaden Springer block followed by a Myles Powell transition three, his first NBA basket.
- Again, just a business-like win. Embiid dominated. Harris provided solid complementary offense (23 points). Curry struggled from the field but tallied nine assists. Maxey was solid with 13 points, four assists and zero turnovers.