Remember when Joel Embiid got off to a slow start this season?
The All-Star big man continues to force his way into the MVP conversation as he turned in another dominant performance in the Sixers’ 119-100 win over the Spurs at the Wells Fargo Center Friday night.
The Sixers’ sixth straight win improves them to 22-16 on the season. Don’t look now, but they’re within 4.5 games of the first-seeded Bulls as of this posting. The Sixers travel to Houston on Monday for a rematch with the Rockets.
Tyrese Maxey, Paul Reed and Jaden Springer remain in the league’s health and safety protocols. Shake Milton (lower back contusion) and Isaiah Joe (back pain) missed Friday’s game while Matisse Thybulle returned to the lineup. Ben Simmons (personal reasons) remains out.
As is the case for most teams, the Spurs are dealing with a laundry list of missing players. They were down seven guys, including Derrick White and former Sixer Thaddeus Young.
Here are a few thoughts from the game:
- On the first play of the game, Joel Embiid found Tobias Harris on a duck-in for an easy basket. Embiid found Harris for a pair of similar plays in Orlando. The Sixers are using Embiid’s gravity to get Harris an easy look. It’s great offense. It appears that Tobias is being used as a screener more as well. Smart moves to get the veteran forward going.
- Oh, you wanted to watch Embiid battle Jakob Poeltl in the post? So much for that. Embiid got Poeltl into foul trouble less than two minutes into the game.
- It’s just mind-blowing how much of a better passer Embiid has become. He’s well on pace to set a career-high in assists per game and dished out five dimes in the first quarter.
He also completely neutralized Dejounte Murray, who’s having a hell of a season, in the pick-and-roll. He did get help from the returning Thybulle.
- A Charlie Brown Jr sighting. The Philly native and St. Joe’s alum, who is on a 10-day hardship exception contract, ran the floor and got an and-one off a Danny Green steal.
What a cool moment.
You can see Brown provides a ton of defensive energy and uses his length to get in the passing lanes.
- Just a flat-out dominant quarter from the trio of Embiid (11), Curry (13) and Harris (8). They take the first 39-19. The Sixers could use a laugher.
- Again smart of Doc Rivers to give Harris run with an all-bench unit.
- Murray and Poeltl certainly seemed happy to not see Embiid to start the second quarter. They both got on the board after being held scoreless. A run here by the Spurs made it 43-34.
- Any momentum San Antonio gained went away quickly when Embiid checked back in. On his first touch back in he hit a jumper over Poeltl. The lead was stretched back out to 51-36.
- Another ridiculous pass and finish from Embiid to Thybulle.
this whole play is in reverse ◀️ pic.twitter.com/30EmShioNQ— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 8, 2022
- The Spurs probably hung around with the Sixers for as long as they could. Embiid was simply unstoppable, posting 21 points, six assists and three rebounds. If you’re looking for a visual recap of the first half:
the kid at the end is all of us. pic.twitter.com/0cdI7KZwLH— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 8, 2022
Curry (18) and Harris (14) provided strong complementary scoring. Also, the Sixers didn’t get outrebounded! They held a 28-20 advantage in the first half and took a 71-53 lead into the locker room.
- Yet another excellent cut by Thybulle. This time Harris found him after being doubled in the post. I get the frustration with Thybulle’s shot not coming around just yet, but credit to him for improving as an off-ball mover this season.
- Murray not going down quietly here. He had 10 points in the first five minutes of the third to get the Spurs to within 12. He made a couple threes and had a couple crafty finishes at the rim. He’s a player that’s been mentioned before in Simmons trade rumors. He’s intriguing.
- Embiid on triple-double watch again with 25 points, six rebounds and six assists roughly midway through the third.
- And your nightly Embiid coast-to-coast “wow” play:
Still so wild to me that we get these transition sequences from Embiid on a nightly basis. Just vast improvement from him.— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) January 8, 2022
- What can you even say?
- Brown is intriguing. He’s really active. Kept up with Murray on defense and got an offensive rebound which led to a Curry three. Not sure he’ll get a look beyond 10 days, but there’s something there.
- San Antonio won the quarter by a point, but the Sixers still took a 97-80 lead into the final period.
- A little Spurs spurt to start the fourth and it’s a 99-87 game. A little bit of a shaky night for Andre Drummond after a strong showing in Orlando. It would be nice if the Sixers could get Embiid a fourth quarter off in the near future.
- And there it is. Embiid gets his sixth straight 30-plus point game with an offensive rebound and putback.
- An unfortunate sequence a possession later as both Embiid and Curry fell to the floor after a loose ball. Embiid landed on his right shoulder but appeared OK. Curry had a limp as he went to the sideline as Rivers took a timeout.
- Curry checked back in, but then Embiid slipped on a jump-stop. He remained in the game. Furkan Korkmaz returned to the game after appearing to hurt his left hand. Man, Sixers just need to get out of this thing in one piece.
- Embiid did head to the locker room early with the game well in hand.
- Braxton Key sighting as Doc has emptied the bench. Aaron Henry scored his first NBA basket.
- You hope Embiid is OK. He was spectacular on the night with 31 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. For the second straight game, the Sixers’ “big three” all recorded 20-plus points with Curry and Harris recording 23 each. Thybulle wound up with 12 points on 5 of 5 — four easy buckets at the rim off cuts, one three and one free throw. Six straight wins. It wasn’t quite a laugher, but it was a wire-to-wire double-digit win.