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December 11, 2023

Instant observations: Sixers crush Wizards behind big nights from Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey

The Sixers completely dominated on Monday night, dominating the now 3-19 Washington Wizards.

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Tyrese Maxey 12.11.23 Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Tyrese Maxey is back to looking like a superstar after dominating the Washington Wizards on Monday night.

After the Sixers narrowly defeated the Washington Wizards on the road on Wednesday night, the Wizards headed to Philadelphia for a rematch on Monday. The Sixers dismantled Washington this time around, taking care of business against the team with a record tied for second-worst in the entire NBA. Here is what jumped out from the 146-101 win:

Sixers get off to scorching hot start from deep

The Sixers took command of this game from the very first possession and on, and they did so emphatically. The team knocked down its first four shots of the game, all three-point tries (three from Tyrese Maxey and one from Tobias Harris), and forced a Washington timeout with a 12-0 lead after just 100 seconds of play. 

While Washington eventually stopped the bleeding to an extent, this was a very impressive tone-setting performance early on from a Sixers team that was firing on all cylinders on both ends of the floor. Everybody in the starting lineup made at least one noteworthy play early -- Joel Embiid put on his typical dominant first quarter showing, Maxey and Harris each knocked down shots, De'Anthony Melton hit a three and Nic Batum had a dazzling pass to a cutting Melton for an easy layup. 

The Sixers knocked down nine of their 15 three-point tries as a team in the first quarter, including three makes on four attempts from Patrick Beverley, who looks as confident as ever on the offensive end of the floor in recent weeks.

Maxey back on track

Between Nov. 21 and Dec. 6, Maxey shot just 29.6 percent from beyond the arc, despite taking a whopping nine three-point tries per game. It was less ominous than it was disappointing; Maxey has a track record of brilliant shooting at this point and his return to high-level shot-making was inevitable.

Now, we can officially say that return has completed. After knocking down four of his eight three-point tries on Friday night, in this one Maxey knocked down five threes... in the first half, tacking two more onto the three he hit in the first 100 seconds of the game.

It goes without saying that every player is at their best when their shots are going in. But Maxey being at his absolute best makes the Sixers an unstoppable force on the offensive end. Between Maxey's shooting gravity, Embiid's overall brilliance and the shooting around the star duo. the team ends up with far too many options for the opposition to stop.

Nick Nurse tweaks his rotation

The Sixers' head coach has received some criticism of late for electing to play Marcus Morris Sr. over Robert Covington as the team's ninth and final rotation piece. In this one, though, Nurse went 10 deep and played both of them -- and they both rewarded their coach with solid efforts.

After Friday's win, Nurse praised Morris' toughness and "veteran presence" as part of his explanation as to why the 13th-year veteran was in the rotation.

Nurse affirmed that eight players -- Maxey, Melton, Batum, Harris, Embiid, Beverley, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Paul Reed -- were just about locks to be part of the rotation. That leaves one or two spots for Morris, Covington, and fringe rotation players like Danuel House Jr. and Jaden Springer. 

Speaking of Reed, the team's backup center was supplanted by Mo Bamba in the second half on Friday night after a lackluster first half stint. Nurse assured Reed that he was still a part of the rotation, and that the coach just wanted to switch things up briefly, he said before Monday's game.

Sharing is caring

The Sixers are not one of the league's leading teams in assists due to the frequency with which they run isolation and post-up plays. Against Washington, they had three players with at least six assists and four players with at least four assists. That includes a season-high in assists for Harris, who was able to leverage his size and strength to create advantages, as well as find cutters out of the mid-post.

The Sixers surpassed their average assists per game total (25.5 per night) with more than three and a half minutes left in the third quarter. They put on an absolute clinic in shot creation, ball movement and selflessness.

Sixers earn their starters some rest

One way to ensure you don't need to play your best players more minutes than necessary: outscore your opponent by 45 points in the first three quarters of the game.

Embiid only logged 30 minutes in this one. Maxey, the league's leader in minutes per game (38.4) entering the night, only played 25 minutes.

The Sixers entered the night with a chance to dominate their competition en route to a stress-free obliteration. Unlike in their last few games, this time they came through and did exactly that, crushing a despondent Wizards team from the opening tip until the final buzzer.