The Sixers’ schedule has been softer to start the new year and they’ve taken full advantage.
Led by another stellar Joel Embiid performance, the Sixers won their seventh straight, 111-91, over the Rockets Monday night at Toyota Center. They’re now 23-16 overall and will return home Wednesday for a date with LaMelo Ball and the Hornets.
Tyrese Maxey and Paul Reed remain in the league’s health and safety protocols. Seth Curry (left ankle soreness) was a late scratch after being listed as questionable earlier in the day. Shake Milton (back contusion) missed his third straight game. Jaden Springer is out with a non-COVID illness. Ben Simmons (personal reasons) remains out.
The Rockets were down four players, including veteran Eric Gordon (right groin tightness) and standout rookie Alperen Sengun (right ankle sprain).
Here are a few takeaways from the game.
- What a luxury to just be able to dump the ball down to Joel Embiid when the offense is stagnant. The Sixers had issues for a few possessions early. Then Embiid simply hit a jumper on a rip through move and got an and-one on Daniel Theis. Things flowed from there.
- It looked like the Sixers were engaged on the defensive end tonight. They got a bunch of deflections and had great energy on that end of the floor. They forced five first-quarter turnovers.
- Early minutes for Myles Powell. The two-way player is one of the few guards the Sixers had available.
- Theis was NOT having a good time against Jo early. Embiid lived at the line and showed off more of his added “bag” this season. The All-Star big man had 17 first-quarter points.
- Man, Christian Wood has turned into a good player. Get him out of Houston.
- Embiid dominated. The Sixers played defense. That led to a 36-27 advantage after one.
- Little run by the Rockets led by Garrison Matthews and rookie Josh Christopher. They cut the deficit to 39-34.
- Man, Charlie Brown Jr. looks like a legitimate NBA defender. He picked the pocket of veteran point guard D.J. Augustin for a steal.
- Very nice run here for Andre Drummond doing Andre Drummond stuff — rebounding, protecting the rim, setting screens, finding cutters on backdoor cuts. Good stretch from the reserves and the Sixers extended their lead back to 49-36.
- A great first half from Furkan Korkmaz. He was really active defensively and efficient on offense. He had 12 points on 5 of 6 from the floor (2 of 3 from three). Korkmaz has also been a more active rebounder recently, something the team has sorely needed. He had five first-half rebounds.
- The Sixers went ice cold to close the first half, going over four minutes without a field goal. Embiid had 23 points (11 of 11 from the line), seven rebounds and three assists at the half. It was a solid defensive effort from the Sixers, but they didn’t shoot the three ball particularly well (5 of 19).
- Tobias Harris had a rough night. He was 4 of 13 from the field and 1 of 5 from three early in the third. You like the aggressiveness, but he needs to be much more efficient against such a poor team. Sixers letting Houston hang around. It’s 69-60.
- Embiid told Matisse Thybulle to shoot and the defensive stalwart listened. Thybulle is 2 of 4 from three on the night. Another timely cut off an Embiid post-up got Thybulle an easy bucket and put him into double-digits for the second straight game.
- Jalen Green is going to be a superstar. He is damn fun to watch.
- We have definitely reached the stage of the season where we’re running out of superlatives to describe Joel Embiid. Monday was the ninth consecutive 30-point performance on the road (the longest streak in franchise history) and the seventh overall — and he accomplished it with just under three minutes left in the third. He’s up to 31 points and also has eight rebounds, six assists and two blocks. Ridiculously dominant stuff.
- A Drummond put-back extends the Sixers’ lead to 91-72. Good stuff from Drum tonight (8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block).
- Apparently it is Andre Drummond time. He’s certainly active and entertaining. He had 13 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal.
- An extremely uneventful fourth quarter other than a silly flagrant two foul by Kevin Porter Jr. on Brown Jr., who made a couple standout defensive plays late. Sixers will take it. Their lead is up to 105-80, Embiid did not have to play a single fourth-quarter minute and the bench has been emptied.
- Braxton Key gets his first NBA bucket on a put-back.
- The Sixers just keep on rolling and Embiid looks like a legitimate MVP candidate. The schedule is definitely soft, but they’re taking care of business. The trade deadline is now a month away. What happens with the Simmons saga is going to be fascinating. The Sixers certainly look like they could be one All-Star-level piece from being legitimate contenders.