The sky is blue, grass is green and Joel Embiid had another 40-point double-double.
The Sixers knocked off the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference when they took down the Pelicans 120-111 Monday night. Embiid finished with 42 and 11 and James Harden gave the Sixers 25 points along with eight assists.
Zion Williamson dominated the first three quarters of the game, putting up 26 points on 10-12 shooting before leaving the game with a hamstring injury.
The win improves the Sixers to 22-14 on the season.
Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.
- Both teams were shooting the ball well from the tip, but the Sixers were able to sustain it for the entire first. Joel Embiid kicked things off by making four of his first five field goals, scoring 13 of his in the opening frame. The Sixers found themselves up eight early.
- The reaction to Tyrese Maxey checking into the game for the first time was something
Sixers fans have missed you, Maxey pic.twitter.com/xuQSTkk3n3— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 3, 2023
- Philly made a couple defensive adjustments early after Friday’s loss. They weren’t playing drop coverage on CJ McCollum, not after his career night. They also no longer mirrored P.J. Tucker’s minutes with Zion’s. This also gave us a glimpse at the three-guard lineup as Maxey shared the floor with James Harden and De’Anthony Melton.
- Georges Niang had himself a first half, going 4 of 6 from the field, all of the attempts coming from downtown. Niang, along with Montrezl Harrell, did a much better job holding their own defensively than they did Friday night in New Orleans, though it was not a high bar to clear.
- Instead of the all-bench lineups that have been closing firsts and opening seconds, Doc Rivers had Embiid close the first and Harden open the second. The offense seemed to really benefit from always having a reliable scoring option on the floor.
- The Sixers did have to play the last minute of the first half with both Embiid and Harden on the bench as they both found themselves with three fouls. This ended up being a crucial stretch as Philly had been leading by double-digits for most of the half, but went into the break only up five.
- Zion certainly built on his stretch that ended the first half, as he did not miss a shot in the third. The Sixers tried a few defensive options, with Tucker and Tobias Harris both getting cracks at Williamson, with a little bit of a 2-3 zone as well.
- It is such a bummer that Zion didn’t finish this game. He tweaked his hamstring as the third quarter ended and did not return. It’s just a shame that his duel with Embiid was cut short.
- Embiid singlehandedly kept the Sixers treading water, as he turned in another 15-point quarter. Philly slogged through the third, as the Pelicans were able to briefly take a lead, but the Sixers managed to hold a three-point lead into the final quarter.
- The hard stagger of Embiid and Harden continued to pay dividends as Harden gave the Sixers a much-needed boost to start the fourth as Embiid would return to a seven-point lead. This bounce pass to Harrell was absolutely gorgeous.
- New Orleans seemed pretty defeated without Williamson, but they found another burst of life to make it a close game down the stretch. The lead was cut to as little as three before threes from Melton and Harden iced the game.
- The Sixers next matchup is Wednesday when they welcome Tyrese Haliburton and the Indiana Pacers to town at 7 p.m.