Embiid scores 42 in 30 minutes as Sixers beat Hornets by 53: Likes and dislikes
The Sixers (17-7) visited the Charlotte Hornets (7-16) on Saturday. Philadelphia wanted to push its winning streak to six games. Charlotte wanted to snap a three-game skid. Joel Embiid scored 42 points in less than 30 minutes as the Sixers destroyed the Hornets, 135-82.
Before we get to the action, some notes.
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.
The Hornets were without LaMelo Ball, who has a sprained right ankle.
Gordon Hayward has a stomach virus and was out.
PJ Washington missed the game with tendinitis in his left shoulder and bicep. Mark Williams has a low back contusion and was out.
Cody Martin is recovering from a left knee injury and was not available.
Frank Ntilikina has a non-displaced fracture in his left tibia and was out. Theo Maledon is not with the team and was not available.
Amari Bailey is on a two-way assignment with Charlotte's G League affiliate and was out.
Steve Clifford started Terry Rozier, Bryce McGowens, Brandon Miller, Miles Bridges, and Nick Richards.
- Less than 24 hours before this game tipped off, Maxey had reporters recite the answer he often gives when asked to talk about Embiid - "Joel Embiid is good at basketball". But, this time, he offered an elaboration. He explained that Embiid is actually getting better, and that such a prospect is scary given the hardware he took home last season.
But, it's true. Relatively subtle, but true. Embiid is getting better at attacking spaces with different dribble moves (which is not to say he's getting better at handling the ball in traffic!). Over the last handful of games, Embiid has dabbled in crossovers above the free throw line. He'll lull the big into thinking he's about to go one way, and then quickly pull back to a neutral position before letting fly on a jumper.
Bigs are usually insulated from crossovers because their counterparts typically aren't skilled enough to shoot off the dribble that way, and smaller/quicker players are usually more concerned with beating them off the dribble to get to the paint. But, Embiid is one of a very select few, if not just one. That midrange jumper off the dribble is a major advantage for him against like-sized players because it allows him to experiment with things that his defenders don't often encounter.
Charlotte knows he's lethal between the elbows, but the players they have that aren't automatic size mismatches aren't equipped to move their feet quickly enough to stay with the ball. So, Embiid might as well have been on the playground.
A couple hard dribbles to bait whoever was in his way into settling into a stance, and then, boom, he pulled back and drilled an open two. Embiid even played with ball fakes, seeing if he could get his man to take one step out of position to grant the space for an easy jumper.
(An aside on ball fakes - I would love to see Embiid toy with the Luka Doncic ball fakes, just to see if it opens up some windows for him to score or make passes by drawing defenders out of position.)
- Embiid is also getting much better at playing with pace, too. He still has his moments of draining the life out of possessions by holding onto the ball for too long. But, this game was a really good example of him catching the ball on the move and maintaining the pace at which he was moving prior to catching the ball.
Whether it was a flip to Embiid before Charlotte got set on defense or a traditional pass as he reached a spot, Embiid was basically dancing with the ball. He caught on the run and galloped right down the lane, shifting directions to blow by the blue jersey standing in his way for a righty finish at the rim. On another possession, Embiid caught the ball in motion and pirouetted from the right elbow to the short corner for a fading baseline jumper.
- The Jamahl Mosleys and Mark Daigneaults of the league are (rightfully) getting the lion's share of the attention for Coach of the Year. Truthfully, it's difficult to say how much of Philadelphia's start to the season has Nurse's prints on it, considering much of the success is related to better depth and the best players doing their jobs.
I will say this - the Sixers are beating the snot out of bad teams. This was their third game with a lead of at least 40 points in their last four games; it was their fourth game in a row with a lead of at least 30 points. They're not playing down to competition anymore. The discipline and focus with which they're operating against every opponent is a sign of accountability and culture. It's just hard to say whether those two things are coming from the top or from the court.
I do know this - Embiid is setting the example. Look no further than him carrying the offense to a 20-plus-point lead in the second quarter, only to hustle back in transition to stuff a shot at the Hornets' rim. That's leadership, and it sets the tone for everyone else. It tells your teammates that there is no taking off on plays just because the team is delivering a beatdown. If Embiid is not above that effort in a blowout, the rest of his team knows to pin the enemy to the floor and not let up until it's time to get back on the team plane.
- Nice to see Maxey break out of a short shooting slump. He was hitting off the dribble and off the catch, and Charlotte didn't seem all that concerned about offering contests. He even splashed a step-back out of a crossover in isolation. He and Embiid outscored the Hornets by themselves in the first half.
- Kelly Oubre Jr. butted heads hard going for a steal on Miller in the first half. Looked mighty painful.
The Sixers (18-7) will host the Chicago Bulls (10-16) on Monday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., Eastern time. You can watch the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia.
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