The Sixers welcomed Joel Embiid back to the lineup Monday night when they took down the Phoenix Suns, 100-88. The Sixers got off to a fiery start and were able to hold off a Devin Booker-fueled comeback, thanks to some timely shooting from Georges Niang. Joel Embiid had a very Joel Embiid night in his return, dropping 33 points and going a perfect 16-of-16 from the free throw line.
Here are some instant takeaways from the win.
- The Sixers started out the game very well defensively. De’Anthony Melton drew the assignment of Devin Booker and did a good job of smothering Booker out of the gate. The Suns were held to just 20 first-quarter points.
- It appears that Embiid’s minutes will be more monitored in the short term. He checked out just halfway through the first, and to the delight of many, we saw some first-quarter Paul Reed minutes. Reed had a classic Bball Paul moment when he mistimed his jump on a lob from Tobias Harris, but was still able to finish the play.
- Tobias Harris was the driving force in the early big lead for the Sixers. Eleven of his 21 came in the first. He had his three ball falling (2 of 3 in the first) and beat Mikal Bridges on a backdoor cut for an easy layup. Real good stuff early from him.
- Another reason Philly grabbed a big lead early was its outside shooting. Before cooling off, the team made five of its first seven shots beyond the arc before missing the next seven. Phoenix would use this to close the lead to nine going into the half.
- The Sixers’ rim protection in the first half was excellent. Between Embiid, who appeared much more focused tonight, and the decision to play Reed over Harrell, this looked like a completely different team guarding the paint. Embiid also looked liked his old self offensively, putting up 18 first-half points and going to the line 10 times.
big fella's up to 18 points! pic.twitter.com/V8XtXgCxcx— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) November 8, 2022
- After Chris Paul was ruled out for the rest of the game with a heel issue, Booker took over for the Suns. Fourteen of his 28 points came in the third, almost singlehandedly bringing Phoenix back into the game. It also didn’t help that Melton quickly had four fouls on him and sat for most of the quarter.
- Not the prettiest quarter offensively for the Sixers. Tyrese Maxey had another rough shooting night from the field, going 4 of 17. The Suns did a good job of forcing Maxey into tougher looks than he’s used to. Phoenix held the Sixers to just 19 points in the third quarter. After leading by as many as 19 in the first half, they took just a five-point lead into the fourth.
- A much-needed hot performance from Georges Niang, who had 21 points on seven made threes, which tied a career high. Niang accounted for well over half of Philly’s made three pointers on the night. There were many stretches in the second half where Philly’s only source of scoring was Niang or Embiid.
- A really good way to rebound defensively for the Sixers after that third quarter. They held Devin Booker scoreless in the fourth quarter, and forced Deandre Ayton into a couple missed bunnies right at the rim. Easily the Sixers’ best defensive performance of the season.
- The Sixers will look to carry this momentum to Atlanta when they take on the Hawks Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. EST. They’re now 5-6.