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November 19, 2018

Instant Observations: Another home game, another win for Sixers and dominant Joel Embiid

I write this every time I watch a Sixers game at the Wells Fargo Center, but the Sixers are still perfect at home, following a 119-114 win over the lowly but feisty Suns Monday night.

The stars were in full force with Ben Simmons and legit MVP candidate Joel Embiid bursting through for their trademark big numbers. The team closed a double-digit gap in the first quarter as big as 15 points to secure the win, their ninth straight at home and 12th on the year.

Here's what I saw in the 'W':

The Good

• Joel Embiid, after seeing his Sixers look... well... like total crap in the first quarter, took things into his own hands when the second kicked off. He scored the Sixers first six of the second, had a big momentum-changing block and got Phoenix rookie center DeAndre Ayton into foul trouble. 

The big man had another MVP caliber game as he let loose in the second half. He would wind up with 33 points, 17 rebounds and three steals.

 • A second Sixers superstar also played well early, as Ben Simmons assisted on five shots in the first quarter and made his first three shots of the game — netting a 5-5-5 half triple double in just 17 minutes of game time. The point guard went for 19 points, 11 boards and nine assists, nearly a full triple double.

• Landry Shamet really is a spark-plug of an offensive weapon. With the Sixers desperate to close a double digit gap late in the second quarter, a drilled three in transition — plus a free throw to complete a four-point play — got Philly within five after the second horn.

• Clearly something motivating resonated in the locker room at the break, as four minutes into the second half the Sixers got their first lead of the game (thanks to an Embiid and-one).

The third quarter has been a major weakness, for whatever reason, as the Sixers have been outscored in the frame all year long (heading into Monday). The trend was bucked against Phoenix as Philly out-gained them 35-24 to take their lead into the fourth.

• Let's also give some props to role player Mike Muscala, who is showing he is a pretty dependable stretch-4 off the bench. He scored 19 points and went 9-for-11 from the free throw line.

The Bad

•A whistle signifying a Sixers time out was the only relief for a Philly slow start, a 12-2 run by Phoenix that saw them running the floor and converting mistakes into points. In a dreadful first quarter for Philadelphia defensively, the Suns made 58 percent of their shots and tallied 36 first quarter points — a Suns season high.

In the opening 12 minutes, the Sixers turned the ball over eight times — just four less than the Spurs, who average 11.9 per contest.

• The Sixers defense, which has gained a reputation for being one of the better units in the NBA, has really looked either gassed or outplayed by a lot of bad teams this year — Phoenix no different. The second worst NBA team (by record) was able to really give Philly fits with their ability to score and create offense.

Most notably, and least surprisingly was Devin Booker, the latest in a long line of opposing star players to absolutely go off against the Sixers (like Blake Griffin going for 50, or Kemba Walker for 60). The young guard scored 37 points and seemed to have an answer every time the Sixers looked as if they were going to pull away.

• It wasn't an issue Monday, but shooting 27 percent from three is never good. Embiid went 0-for-5 from long range.

The Ugly

• Why, oh why did Embiid have to try and be so fancy?

• Also, J.J. Redick's face — at least Monday night — was not a pretty sight as twice he left the court after being hit in the face (the first resulted in a nose bleed that forced him to play with some cotton in his nostril). He returned the second time and played fine, but look at the end of this video. Points for Redick's toughness.

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