Embiid drops career-high, franchise-record 70 in win over Spurs: Likes and dislikes
The Sixers (28-13) hosted the San Antonio Spurs (8-34) on Monday. Philadelphia wanted to win its sixth consecutive game. San Antonio wanted to build on Saturday's win over the Wizards. Joel Embiid scored 34 points in the first half - and that was his lesser half - en route to a 70-point night as the Sixers held off the Spurs, 133-123.
Before we get to what I saw, some notes.
The Spurs were without Sidy Cissoko, who has a sprained left ankle.
Charles Bassey is recovering from a torn left ACL and is out for the season.
David Duke Jr. and Dominick Barlow are on two-way assignments with San Antonio's G League affiliate and were not available.
Gregg Popovich started Tre Jones, Devin Vassell, Julian Champagnie, Jeremy Sochan, and Victor Wembanyama.
The Sixers were without the services of De'Anthony Melton, who is receiving treatment for a stress response to lumbar spine soreness.
Patrick Beverley missed the game with an illness. Marcus Morris Sr. has plantar fasciitis in his left foot and was not available.
Robert Covington has left knee inflammation and was out. Mo Bamba has right knee inflammation and was not available.
Jaden Springer missed the game with right ankle tendinitis. Kenny Lofton Jr. has a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder and was out.
Nick Nurse started Tyrese Maxey, Kelly Oubre Jr., Nico Batum, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid.
- Nurse continued the funky defensive scheme he's deployed against star bigs lately, letting Embiid serve as the roamer while Batum drew primary responsibilities on Wembanyama in the early-goings. It was a smart choice for a matchup with Wembanyama, who is so long and fluid that it probably doesn't matter who his primary defender is once he catches the ball anyway.
If you're in trouble regardless when Wembanyama catches the ball, you might as well do what you can to deny the ball. At that point, it becomes a conversation about who is best at getting into passing lanes to deny the entry pass, and that's where Batum comes into play.
- Batum deflected a pass or two away to create transition opportunities for the Sixers in the first quarter. But, his most significant impact was on the offensive glass. He had an excellent sense for how the ball was going to come off the rim, rushing to spots to smack it out of the reaches of nearby Spurs with just enough force to cause ricochets to his teammates. Batum only got the glory of one made triple in the first quarter, but he did a game's worth of dirty work against a young, inexperienced Spurs team.
- It was literally the best offensive first quarter of Embiid's career:
But, he deserves a ton of credit for putting in a genuine effort on the offensive glass. Embiid absolutely battled to secure additional plays on his teammates' missed shots, willingly getting physical inside to keep the ball alive until he could secure it and then pivoting to go back up with it.
Just another night at the office for the big man, but he made sure his physical presence was felt. On a night billed as the first matchup between superstar rookie and reigning MVP, some of the interest was based in how Embiid would handle a guy with Wembanyama's combination of size and agility. He handled it by scoring 34 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in his first 19 minutes of game time.
- Nothing I or anyone else could ever write would properly capture what Embiid did on Monday. A franchise-record and career-high 70 points. He did it all over the floor, dazzling in the midrange and fighting for positioning inside. That's all the analysis you need because, frankly, there's nothing to explain. Embiid simply could not be stopped, and then he caught such a rhythm that the basket might as well have been an ocean.
Whatever you think of Embiid, whatever dings you think he deserves for his playoff resume, that guy is why you continue to hold out hope that, some day, it will click in the most important moments. He is part of the reason that I and the other beat writers enjoy our jobs, and why we look forward to going to work every night. Because, with a guy capable of doing that, you don't know what you're in for on any given night. You never know what history, heroics, or greatness you might see.
So, when you reduce him to free throws or playoff failures, you're only depriving yourself. Because Embiid deserves to be appreciated, regardless of whether he ever dons a championship ring of his own. You blink, and it's a new era. And you spent so much time criticizing what he didn't or doesn't do that you missed all of the things with which Embiid has graced Philadelphia.
- I don't know if it was a discipline/focus issue or the Sixers having a difficult time adjusting to San Antonio's length, but Philadelphia committed a bizarre number of fouls on threes. Landing space, fellas. Landing space.
- Danuel House Jr. was probably the biggest offender, but, my gosh, some of the guys on the floor with Embiid just did not read the room well. No. 21 is vying for history, and you're looking for your own shot. Time and place!
The Sixers (29-13) will visit the Indiana Pacers (24-19) on Thursday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., Eastern time. You can watch the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia.
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