Embiid and Maxey lead Sixers in beatdown of Wizards: Likes and dislikes
The Sixers (14-7) hosted the Washington Wizards (3-18) on Monday. Philadelphia wanted to win its third game in a row. Washington wanted to snap a four-game losing streak. Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey combined for 58 points and 12 assists to lead the Sixers in a beatdown of the Wizards, 146-101.
Before we get to what I saw, some notes.
The Wizards were without the services of Daniel Gafford, who has a right hip contusion.
Delon Wright was out with a sprained left knee. Landry Shamet has a sprained right rib and was not available.
Johnny Davis missed the game with a strained left calf. Ryan Rollins has a strained right knee and was out.
Wes Unseld Jr. started Tyus Jones, Jordan Poole, Deni Avdija, Kyle Kuzma, and Mike Muscala.
The Sixers were without Terq Smith, Javonte Smart, and Ricky Council IV, who are on two-way G League assignments with the Delaware Blue Coats.
Nick Nurse started Tyrese Maxey, De'Anthony Melton, Nico Batum, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid.
- I wasn't sure there'd be much to take away pertaining to Embiid in this one, unless, of course, he came out with another 50-ball. Seeing as he scored 50 with ease against this same team when Gafford was available just a few days ago, it seemed promising that the big guy would give those in attendance a night to remember with Gafford unavailable for this one.
To be clear, Embiid could've probably gotten the 50 points if he wanted it. The only thing Washington had to offer in the way of defense was a combination of Muscala, Kuzma, Danilo Gallinari, and a zone configuration. If Embiid wanted to, he could've shot over any individual defender in his way. He could've bodied his way through any mashup of defensive ideas that the Wizards threw at him. But, rather than force anything in pursuit of another 50-point night, Embiid took the opportunity to get his teammates involved.
Conceptually, it was offense in its simplest form. If there was only one guy in Embiid's way, he acted as the aggressor until one or multiple white jerseys came over to help. Whether it was in the paint, in the short-corner area, or around the elbows, Embiid pulled the help towards him just enough to weaponize the advantages elsewhere on the court. He moved the ball all over the floor throughout the game, often to the point of sloppy mistakes. He got everyone involved, from cutters to stationary shooters.
It turned into a Globetrotter-like display for the big guy. Embiid used the Chris Webber between-the-legs bounce pass on a DHO to get the ball to a sprinting Harris, a play he often runs with Maxey. He slung an underhanded fastball up the court in transition, and a no-look fastball on another transition possession. The night wasn't complete without an assortment of behind-the-back passes as he garnered attention in the middle of the floor.
With each flashy pass came risk; Embiid committed seven turnovers in the game, many of which were passes that went out of bounds. But, there came a point midway through the second quarter at which it was clear that this game was a blowout. So, messing around with some flashy passes is not something for which I'll penalize the big guy on this night. The principle is what matters.
Embiid saw an opportunity to make this game more about his teammates than himself, and he did. He still got an easy 34 points on the night. But, his effort was in being a distributor. Sure, he was still the mechanism that triggered the offense. He drew the attention and found the open man. But, everyone ate off of the shots he created.
- In terms of volume and percentage, this game was one of Philadelphia's best shooting nights of the season. Part of it had to do with the absolutely putrid Washington defense. Intentional or not, the Wizards were pulling in on the middle of the floor from the jump. Philadelphia's first four shots of the game were threes - all makes. All practice-level catch-and-shoot attempts. Washington spotted the Sixers a double-digit lead from the get-go, and Philadelphia never looked back.
The other part of the three-point shooting was that the Sixers were extremely quick and decisive. Washington went to a zone to try to limit fouls and keep Embiid out of the paint. It worked to a degree, but they neglected the perimeter. All Embiid had to do was fire the pass to the right guy, and it was a quick three without a moment of thought.
- Maxey reaped most of the benefit early on. He scored the game's first nine points - all triples. He took nine threes in the game, cashing in on five of them. Taking just 13 shots in the game, nothing was forced. Maxey often made the extra pass off of the feed from Embiid, recognizing that the helper's helper left the next guy in line wide open.
Light work for Batman and Robin in this one.
- The Sixers took care of business and put this game away with a quarter to spare. So, I will mostly give them a night off from criticism. But, there is one thing. They gave up dribble penetration way too easily at the start of this game. The Wizards are young and have some athleticism, so they're going to find their ways to the basket against veteran teams from time to time. What is most concerning to me is that Batum continues to be a common crack in the dam.
Guards are leaving him in the dust. Wings are finding the edges against him and getting downhill. I get he's in his mid-30s and those vulnerabilities are inevitable and natural. But, I don't know that his length and size is doing enough for the Sixers' defense to cover up the fact that much of the dribble penetration is starting with him.
Something to monitor as the season goes on.
The Sixers (15-7) will visit the Detroit Pistons (2-20) on Wednesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia.
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Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig/Townsquare Media