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Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid carry Sixers to big win in Brooklyn

It was the Maxey and Embiid Show at Barclays.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Brooklyn Nets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Rolling into the new year with a dub!

Up at the Barclays Center, the Sixers pulled off a 110-102 win over the Nets. Overcoming 33-point performances from both Kevin Durant and James Harden, the Sixers were able to move to 19-16 while helping themselves gain ground in the Eastern Conference standings.

Here are my takes and observations from the Sixers’ victory.

- I’ve really been in a rut with my Sixers fandom. I’ve become so jaded. Tonight was fun though. It didn’t completely change the trajectory of the Sixers’ season or their future in the Joel Embiid era. They could fall to a Rockets team that’s 15 games below .500 on Monday. For a single night, however, I was reminded why I have cared so much about this team over the years and why I’m still so invested in the success Embiid and Tyrese Maxey could bring this city. I love this.

- Joel Embiid is the best big man in the NBA. Wash, rinse, repeat. He finished the game with 34 points and illustrated yet again that if not for him, this Sixers squad would be a complete disaster. Hell, maybe they are one and Embiid provides that much damage control with his two-way abilities. Watching him tell Kevin Durant to get off the court even though the Sixers are playing in Brooklyn’s arena? That gives me a vivacity I desperately needed.

- It was great to see Tyrese Maxey as the lead ball-handler in half-court sets. His usage rate is improbably down from 23.0 percent as a rookie to 21.3 percent this season going into tonight. He should be acting as the Sixers’ top guard whenever he steps on the court. The Sixers are low on options for that role and Maxey possesses the potential to truly be that type of dude. He was aggressive at the jump, which felt like a huge bounce-back performance after scoring just five points and having only one assist in 36 minutes on Tuesday night.

He had the Sixers cruising early on with nine first-quarter points. He helped shoulder the load late. Onions. Whenever he gets the ball in his hands, good things happen for the Sixers. Perhaps the coaching staff will come to realize this! The 21-year-old guard finished with a stat line of 25-7-3. His five made threes set a new career high. The duo of Maxey and Embiid balling out early had me dreaming that the beginning of 2022 could be more promising than the second half of 2021 for the Sixers. As the poet Adam Duritz once crooned for Counting Crows, “It’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe that this year will be better than the last.”

- How about Georges Niang being a little bit of a cocky MF-er whenever he makes a three? He was clutch down the stretch in the fourth quarter as the Sixers pulled away. That’s the type of energy that will be needed during a huge Game 5 series-clinching win over Charlotte with that South Philly crowd rocking.

- In a league where the hyper-specificity of the salary cap matters more than any other sport, the Sixers are allocating two max contract slots to two guys who haven’t been legitimate contributors this season. Very cool! It would be nice to not to waste another year of Embiid.

- Why does it seem like the Sixers wear their red uniforms whenever I’m on recap duty? Philadelphia is an excellent town for sports jerseys, but these are way at the bottom. The mix of the Nets’ City Edition uniforms combined with a stellar court that pays homage to both the 1990s and early-2000s Nets squads is tremendous. Respect to both Dražen Petrović and Lucious Harris. Face Mask Lucious Harris was a real hooper and a problem.

- A duo of Kevin Durant and James Harden is, to put it mildly, completely outrageous. They’re, what, two of the top-five perimeter scorers in the history of the sport? Having them on the same team together in their early 30s is scary enough, but imagine if a team was able to build a franchise with those dudes together from the early 20s onward. That squad would probably win two or three rings at minimum.

- The Heat signed two-time NBA champion Mario Chalmers to their roster today following a rash of players missing time because of COVID. The Sixers are currently without Tyler Johnson and Myles Powell. Here’s a list of players I’d consider signing if things get really desperate for the Sixers this winter:

- Rashard Lewis

- Tony Wroten

- Jannero Pargo

- Nikola Peković

- Wade Baldwin

- Nick Calathes

- Tyler Hansbrough

- Shelvin Mack

- Furkan Aldemir

- Carl Landry

- Andrew Nicholson

- Scott Burrell

- Fat Lever

- Chet Walker

- Bruno Caboclo

- Doug Christie