Well, it wasn’t pretty, but the Sixers will certainly take it.
After getting out to a big lead thanks to a scalding shooting start, the Sixers held on for dear life in Joel Embiid’s return, beating the Bulls 114-109 in Chicago Saturday night.
Embiid was up and down for most of the night, but was sensational late, nailing a huge three and playing exceptional defense on a late DeMar DeRozan drive. The Sixers have now won two in a row to improve their record to 3-4. They’ll be in D.C. to take on the Wizards on Halloween night.
Here are a few takeaways from the win.
- Looks like we’ve got P.J. Tucker on DeMar DeRozan and Tobias Harris on Zach LaVine to start.
- Sixers running the hell out of the Embiid-Harden pick-and-roll and having a ton of success. Embiid found Maxey in the corner on a great read off the short roll. Sixers just getting a ton of looks off what should be their most reliable action.
- It’s amazing how well Tucker can guard fives. He gets switched on to Nikola Vucevic and is able strip him on a back down.
- Harden with a touchdown pass to Harris on the break and the Sixers’ offense is humming. Great start.
- Matisse Thybulle might have sneaked his way into the rotation. He’s the first player off the bench for Maxey. We’ve got some zone with Thybulle and De’Anthony Melton in the game together.
- This is the best Harden and Embiid have looked together maybe ever. Pick-and-rolling the Bulls to death and getting great looks for themselves and others.
- Shake Milton also getting more run tonight. Looks like Danuel House is the odd man out. Frankly, I can’t blame Doc Rivers for that decision. Not a huge fan of the all-bench looks, but give this group credit. They were good last night against the Raptors and have carried it over. They’re moving the basketball and playing with energy on defense.
- Outstanding first quarter from the Sixers, jumping out to a 37-22 lead. Embiid with eight points. Harden with five and five assists. Melton with six points on a pair of threes and two assists.
- House does wind up checking in. Doc really expanding the rotation.
- The effort in transition has been night and day over the last two games. Defense in general has been much more cohesive.
- Embiid checks back in and immediately gets a put-back bucket. Sixers up big, 46-30.
- The Sixers might be up 40 if not for DeRozan. He’s living at the free throw line so far. Embiid, Maxey and Thybulle all with three fouls.
- Bulls making some inroads after Embiid goes to the bench. Maxey getting an extended rest here as well. It’s 54-44, Sixers. DeRozan with a game-high 18.
- Harden really struggling from the field tonight. He’s 1 of 7. Chicago cuts it to 56-53. Sixers having a rough time defending the paint without Embiid. Having trouble scoring without Embiid and Maxey.
- Sixers close the quarter on an 8-3 run. Strong halves from Harris (11 points, 3 of 4 from three) and Tucker (eight points, 2 of 2 from three). Embiid with 12 in a little over 12 minutes. Harden didn’t shoot it well, but had eight assists. Melton with another stat-stuffing night: eight points, four assists and two rebounds. It’s 64-56 at the half. Should have a rested Embiid and Maxey for the second half.
- Embiid smacked across the wrists by LaVine after a strong roll to the basket. Embiid has been terrific rolling tonight, but a play like that makes you understand why he doesn’t always love doing it. It’s a good opportunity for opponents to take shots.
- Vucevic has turned into Dirk Nowitzki. He’s made three triples to start the half and this is a tie game, 72-72. Officials calling this thing awfully tight. Tucker now has four after being whistled for two illegal screens.
- A 12-0 run and Chicago now has a 76-72 lead. Looks like the officials missed a call as Embiid chased down LaVine in transition. It sure looked like Embiid pinned it, but it was called a goaltend.
- Wow, what a play from Melton. Sixers go back to the zone and Javonte Green thought he had an easy dunk on a backdoor play, but Melton flew in from behind for a block.
- Sixers still shooting the ball well, but they already have 12 turnovers. Bulls are starting to catch fire.
- Maxey starting to get going here. He drew two fouls and then had another blur of a drive to put the Sixers back in front 82-81.
- Brutal quarter overall as an eight-point halftime lead shrinks to three, 90-87. Maxey was the Sixers’ saving grace as his run to close the quarter got them back in front. He’s up to 14 points. Embiid has 20, but still looks a step behind defensively.
- Phew, Montrezl Harrell is not a great defender, but he is not afraid to take a charge. He’s taken a couple big shots tonight.
- Big night for Georges Niang. A floater and a three extends the Sixers’ lead to 99-95. Harden is struggling mightily. Can’t find his rhythm shooting, doesn’t have the feel for his step-back and is not thrilled with the officiating.
- Make that three charges for Harrell. The bench has been big tonight.
- Feels like this maybe could’ve been a good night to give Harden off.
- The Sixers were working really well off the Embiid and Harden pick-and-roll, but both guys have been sloppy with the ball down stretch. Harden did nail a tough fadeaway over Alex Caruso and then drew a big foul. The free throws tied the game at 107-107 with just over three minutes left.
- Well, better late than never for Harden, who drew another foul and gave the Sixers the lead again at 109-107.
- Vucevic makes two free throws to tie it. Then Embiid misses two free throws. Sixers able to force LaVine into a tough, long two that he misses. Harden with the rebound and the Sixers were forced to call a timeout as it appeared he took a shot to the head.
- Wow, Embiid pops on a pick-and-roll with Harden and nails a three from the wing with 18 seconds left. Big time shot — 112-109, Sixers.
- Sheesh. Embiid then masterfully contests a DeMar DeRozan drive to help the Sixers seal the win. Embiid was up and down in this one, but came up big when it mattered most. He finished with 25 points. Melton and Niang led a strong bench effort, combining for 25 points.