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October 28, 2023

Sixers game notes: Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey light up scoreboard in win

The Sixers first win was highlighted by incredible performances from Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

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Joel Embiid and Jakob Poeltl. Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers traveled north of the border to face the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night in a homecoming for new head coach Nick Nurse. Here are notes from throughout the team's second game of the season:

First Quarter

• For all of the talk of a more egalitarian Sixers offense, a balanced approach was not on display early. Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris were the only Sixers to attempt any field goals or free throws until just over eight minutes into the game. It was an incredibly odd display, particularly after Tyrese Maxey’s outstanding showing in Milwaukee on Thursday night.
• Credit the Raptors for some impressive shooting, but the Sixers’ first quarter three-point defense was poor, to say the least. Five different Raptors knocked down shots from beyond the arc, including two for star Pascal Siakam and rookie Gradey Dick.

• The Sixers used some very small lineups early on in the game against Toronto’s jumbo lineups. It is interesting but not surprising, as Nick Nurse is known to zig when others zag. The Sixers utilized quite a bit of zone defense when their small lineups were in the game.

Second Quarter

• After not taking a shot in the first quarter, Maxey took over the game, scoring nine points in fewer than seven minutes with Embiid off the bench and finishing the second quarter with 15 points on 10 shot attempts. Maxey knocked down three triples on four tries during the period as well. 
• Nurse called on Danuel House Jr. over Jaden Springer in the first half tonight, after Springer impressed in the first half in Milwaukee but did not crack the rotation after intermission. This could have been due to Toronto’s size, but also could be Nurse trying to get a more extended look at a player in House Jr. who only played in one preseason game and did not see any action in Milwaukee. Nurse spoke openly in the preseason about wanting to get lots of looks at different players.
• Paul Reed gave the Sixers about 6:30 of terrific play, with the Sixers outscoring Toronto by nine points in that time. He finished two baskets around the rim, grabbed three rebounds and had a steal which led to a bucket for Oubre Jr. in transition off a feed from Maxey.
• After using unusually small lineups early in the first half, Nurse utilized some bigger lineups right before intermission. Kelly Oubre Jr., for example, spends most of his minutes at the small forward position, generally speaking. But he played the four for much of the first quarter, and slid all the way down to the two in the second quarter. The construction of this Sixers roster -- one filled with multi-positional talent -- allows Nurse to make these sorts of significant changes within a game.

Third Quarter

• The Sixers opened the second half on a 13-2 run in just over three minutes of play, ignited by two Embiid buckets inside and punctuated by threes from Maxey, Harris and PJ Tucker (whose corner three represented his first points of the season). 
• Man oh man is Maxey on a heater. He knocked down two more quick threes to grow the Sixers’ lead to a game-high 13 and force another early third quarter timeout by Toronto. He has been carving up Toronto’s defense ever since he started playing aggressively.
• Embiid has looked much more like his MVP self in this one, giving the Sixers the kind of casual, almost effortless scoring that has led to two straight scoring titles.
• Nurse went with House Jr. as the second wing off the bench over Green in the second half. Green has not done anything of note in the first two games, so this certainly makes some sense. You might as well see what you have in House Jr., whose athleticism gives him more upside.

Fourth Quarter

• There has been a lot of talk about Harris’ importance to this Sixers team. The lineup they used to open the fourth -- with Harris surrounded by four role players, while Embiid and Maxey both rested -- shows that they do need Harris to be his best self -- a star in his diminished role at times, and an assertive scorer in certain moments as well. The Sixers were outscored by two points in just over four minutes while these lineups were used -- all in all, a fine outcome.
• Embiid struggled mightily handling double-teams in Milwaukee and was a turnover machine. In Toronto, however, he was methodical and brilliant in his manipulation of the Raptors’ defense. He picked them apart with timely pass after timely pass. His reads were like night and day when compared to the ones he made against the Bucks.
• On the subject of Embiid’s passing, Oubre Jr. has become a frequent recipient of his passes early on in the season. That is because Oubre Jr., in addition to his three-point shooting and occasional off-dribble scoring, has been ready, willing and able as a cutter. It’s a huge asset.

• The Sixers’ defense was at its best down the stretch of this game, punctuated by an Embiid block of a Scottie Barnes dunk attempt, as they were able to strongly close out this one for their first win of the season, 114-107.

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