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Embiid-less Sixers crushed by Pelicans

The Sixers played their second game without Joel Embiid this season ... and went even worse than the first time.

Philadelphia 76ers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

Yeah, just completely throw that one away.

For the first time this year, the Sixers got clobbered, falling 124-114 to the New Orleans Pelicans Wednesday night. The final score is a little deceiving as the Sixers trailed by 20 points or so for most of the contest.

Tyrese Maxey led all scorers with 33 points, shooting 13-of-25 from the field. Zion Williamson had 33 points as well, going a perfect 11-of-11 from the field, which set a Pelicans record.

Joel Embiid was a late scratch due to an illness.

Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.

First Quarter

  • Without the big fella, playing 5-out against a team that starts Zion Williamson and Jonas Valancuinas is a pretty good idea. Philly starting the game shooting 2-of-9 nullified the effect they were going for, allowing the Pelicans to quickly go up double digits.
  • Nick Nurse was quick to ditch the small-ball lineup, instead giving Mo Bamba his first real minutes of the season. The Sixers’ offense flowed a bit better with a traditional big in the game, allowing Maxey and Harris to run their pick-and-rolls, though only slightly. Bamba didn’t have a great shift individually, shooting 1-of-3 and picking up two fouls within a couple of seconds to send him back to the bench.
  • Just like the Timberwolves game, you can only wonder what the game might have looked like if Reed had started. He’s the only big who was active tonight and who’s still a capable defender. His chemistry with Maxey on offense is significantly more established. Tonight though, the Sixers gave up 39 in the first, putting themselves in a 15-point hole.

Second Quarter

  • Just like Bamba, KJ Martin also got his first real minutes as a Sixer in the first half. He played a rather quiet six minutes in the second, but had a couple nice moments towards the end of his shift. He cut down the baseline to finish a De’Anthony Melton drive and tied up Brandon Ingram on the other end of the floor, forcing a jump ball.
  • Martin did get absolutely robbed when he was whistled for offensive interference on a put-back. This happened not long after Martin and Covington looked to tip one in their own basket trying to secure a rebound.
  • They were obviously without their best player, but it was remarkable how poor the Sixers were at taking care of the ball. They’ve done a good job on the year, but they turned it over 14 times in the first half. Harris and Maxey accounted for half of those, so many of them coming on over-ambitious passes. Everyone for Philly was out there just trying stuff, and they still went into the half trailing by 20.

Third Quarter

  • On a night like tonight, you just hope everyone gets out of it healthy. Nico Batum appeared to tweak the finger he injured a couple of weeks ago and immediately went back to the locker room.
  • He was good the entire night, but Williamson torched Philly in the third. Throwing capable bodies at him without Embiid was already an uphill battle, but the Sixers giving away so many transition opportunities gave them little hope at stopping Zion. He scored 12 points in less than six minutes in the quarter.
  • The Sixers continued to turn the ball over and the Pelicans, Williamson in particular, continued to punish them for it. New Orleans outscored the Sixers 18-4 in fast break points through three quarters, as they held a 21-point lead.

Fourth Quarter

  • Nurse called a timeout 16 seconds into the quarter. The first play back from that break saw a deflection the Sixers would challenge and lose. When the Sixers finally brought the ball back down the floor, the shot clock broke, because if there’s one thing this game needed, it was extra stoppages.
  • Maxey coming back out for the fourth quarter put him at just over 39 minutes of action tonight. Him leading the league in minutes isn’t the worst thing in the world, but the Sixers are putting a lot of miles on him. Last week in Minnesota was the first time in his pro career he ever looked tired during a game, it might not have been the worst idea for him to get an extra period of rest.
  • Unbelievably, the Sixers did manage to cut the lead to single digits. A zone defense with plenty of trapping allowed the Sixers to cut the lead to eight with about two minutes left. It was way too little too late, but went a long way in making the final score look more respectable.
  • Hopefully Embiid took some Alka-seltzer, because the Sixers will head up to Boston for their next matchup. They’ll take on the Celtics Friday night at 7:30 p.m. on a game that was just recently flexed to ESPN.

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