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Embiid dominates (again) as Sixers hang on for win vs. Spurs

Joel Embiid made 12 straight road games with 30-plus points as the Sixers squeaked out a win in San Antonio.

Philadelphia 76ers v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

It wasn’t pretty, but they’ll take it.

Behind yet another dominant Joel Embiid effort, the Sixers got back into the win column with a 115-109 victory over the Spurs Sunday night. They improve 27-19 on the season. They’ll host the Pelicans Tuesday.

The Sixers continue to play shorthanded as Seth Curry (left ankle soreness), Matisse Thybulle (right shoulder sprain), Danny Green (right hip pain), and Shake Milton (lower back contusion) were all out of the lineup again. Ben Simmons (personal reasons) remains out.

Here are a few takeaways from Sunday’s game.

First quarter

  • It feels like every game I notice another area of growth from Joel Embiid. On Sunday, he showed his improved patience. A lot of this likely has to do with Embiid seeing the floor better and processing things much quicker. He embraces the double teams and/or finds the opponent’s help. He’s so under control right now.
  • Charlie Brown Jr. has been such a pleasant surprise. He was chasing Dejounte Murray through screens and affecting the Spurs with his length. They just need a little bit more offense from the Philly native. Plays like this (should we call it the Matisse cut?) will go a long way.
  • I know the Sixers are down guys, but man, everything just looks so hard on offense. San Antonio definitely has a few strong defenders like Murray and Jakob Poeltl, but it was tough to watch some of these Sixers’ offensive possessions.
  • Nice run to close the quarter. With Poeltl out it seemed to open up some driving opportunities. Point Furk had a decent stint ... before a pretty ill-advised deep three late in the second.
  • A tough shooting start for Embiid (2 of 7) and solid defense from Poeltl, but the bench already provided more offense than it did Friday. Sixers took a 29-23 lead into the second.

Second quarter

  • Neither team shooting the ball well. The Spurs off to a brutal start, including 1 of 9 from three. The reserves definitely have some juice tonight. Isaiah Joe hit a three and came away with a nice steal that eventually led to a basket. Andre Drummond off to a nice, active start. Stretched the lead to double digits.
  • Tyrese Maxey went down with just under five minutes to go in the second. It appeared to be a leg injury. Doc Rivers called a timeout to check on his point guard. Maxey was able to stay in the game.
  • Whoa, a Maxey-Embiid pick-and-roll where Maxey hits Embiid on the roll?! Sign me up. (Embiid missed the initial lob, but tapped it right back in).
  • The Spurs went on a little run late in the second, but Embiid had a nice spurt to keep San Antonio at arm’s length.

It wasn’t Embiid’s finest half, but he still managed 16 points (7 of 16), six rebounds and three assists. Brown Jr. (seven points, two steals) capped off a strong defensive first half with a swipe and a dunk on the other end to put the Sixers up 59-47 heading to the locker room. San Antonio shot below 40 percent from the field and below 30 percent from three.

Third quarter

  • Tobias Harris is struggling, but what’s even stranger is that Doc doesn’t even seem like he’s trying to use him. And when he does it’s just an iso or a post up against a player he doesn’t hold an advantage against. Harris also continues to miss bunny after bunny. Been a brutal season.
  • Doc is rightfully running everything through Maxey and Embiid to start the second half. It still just doesn’t feel like Maxey is being nearly aggressive enough offensively.

The shooting is starting to level up for the Spurs as they cut it to 66-60.

  • Embiid was just awesome in the third, scoring 12. The two-man game with Maxey and Embiid is really starting to find its stride. Embiid has never played with a guard like Maxey, but he seems to be adjusting quite well.
  • The Sixers took their foot off the gas a bit to close the third, but still maintained an 86-77 advantage. Korkmaz hit a pair of threes and provided complementary offense with 15.

Fourth quarter

  • A couple nice buckets from Harris, but the Spurs aren’t going away.
  • Maxey time. The second-year guard hit a hot potato three and then had a strong drive finishing over Murray and Poeltl. When Embiid is off the floor this is the way Maxey needs to play.
  • The Drummond minutes did not go well in the fourth. He’s a minus-2 on the night. Poeltl had a nice night. He’s up to 21 points and nine rebounds. Embiid about to check in to save the day.
  • Harris salvaging his night in the fourth. He got in on some actions with Maxey and Embiid which seemed to help all three players. The balanced offense was a big boost. And another 30-point road performance from the big man. Such an impressive stretch.
  • Embiid doing Embiid stuff.
  • The finish wasn’t pretty, as the Spurs got it to within two with 33.2 seconds left. A pair of Embiid free throws pushed it to four with 14.9 remaining. The Sixers turned a nice defensive possession, forcing an ugly, off-balance three from Derrick White. A pair of Maxey free throws sealed it.
  • This definitely falls into the “a win is a win” category. The Sixers will take it after what happened Friday night. Embiid was brilliant with 38 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. He had just one turnover. Maxey and Harris had 18 a piece and had their moments down the stretch. Korkmaz had 17 and hit 3 of 5 from three.