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November 06, 2023

Sixers game notes: Joel Embiid dominates in win over Wizards

The Wizards had no answer for Joel Embiid Monday night.

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Joel Embiid. Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers hosted the Washington Wizards Monday night, winning easily by a score of 146-128 against one of the league's young, rebuilding teams. Here is what stood out from the game:

Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris lead Sixers after slow start

The Sixers trailed in the early minutes of the game, with the Wizards looking considerably more lively and connected. Daniel Gafford, a player who has historically struggled against the Sixers, was particularly effective early on, scoring eight points on perfect shooting and swatting four shots in just a few moments, stifling Embiid at the rim in a way he never has.

Suddenly, the Sixers turned it on and the massive talent disparity at play became apparent. Embiid dominated, posting an 8-7-4 line in the first quarter, man-handling Washington on both ends with his strength and making the right reads out of double-teams.

Tobias Harris was outstanding in the first quarter as well, scoring 10 efficient points, including four free throws. His continued aggression and diversity of scoring has been a boon for the Sixers.

Welcome to Philadelphia, Nic Batum

Batum gave the Sixers a huge, instant lift off the bench, coming in and knocking down his first four shots of the game — the first three of which coming from beyond the arc. He showed the value that comes with not just a good shooter, but a quick one. Batum has one of the quickest three-point releases in the NBA, and it allows him to knock down shots that a lot of players couldn't even get off.

Batum may not seem like an exciting player, but his shooting, passing and wing defense make him the perfect role player for a contending team built around a superstar like Embiid. A solid argument could be made, in fact, that he will help the Sixers more than any other player acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers, including Robert Covington. Batum's skillset is tailor-made for the role he will fill in Philadelphia.

De'Anthony Melton comes back to life in a big way

Melton entered Monday night shooting just 27.3 percent from three-point range on the young season. Sixers head coach Nick Nurse reiterated that he is confident in the sixth-year guard pre-game:

"He's due to get hot," Nurse said. "Things will just take their course and get him back to his career numbers."

Melton made good on Nurse's belief, knocking down the first four threes he tried in the first half alone. Melton's defense has been its typical excellent self, and his passing has improved by leaps and bounds so far in 2023-2024. Once the threes continue to go down, he will once again show himself to be one of the more valuable role players in the NBA.

Rotation decisions

Nurse has some difficult decisions to make on a nightly basis these days, as the Sixers have more rotation-worthy players than they do rotation spots available after trading PJ Tucker and the inactive James Harden in exchange for four players.

Tonight, Nurse elected to go with Batum, Jaden Springer and the red-hot Furkan Korkmaz off the bench in the first half, most notably leaving Covington and Marcus Morris Sr. out of the rotation. He then went to Morris Sr. in the third quarter. Of course, this roster is likely not going to be the Sixers' final form, but for the time being, Nurse will continue to be forced to make tough calls.

Sixers continue to win non-Embiid minutes

Perhaps one of the single most encouraging developments of the season so far for the Sixers has been their play when Embiid hits the bench. In what is often a problematic time for the Sixers, the goal has always been to break even. Right now, they are blowing games open on a consistent basis without the reigning MVP in the game.

According to Cleaning The Glass, when Sixers backup center Paul Reed is in the game, the Sixers entered Monday night with a Net Rating of +6.1, a terrific number given the circumstances.

The Sixers have dominated just about everybody in the regular season with Embiid on the floor during his career. If they can continue solidifying their lineups without him — mostly built around Harris, Reed and Tyrese Maxey — their floor as a regular season team will raise to heights even higher than it already is.

Patrick Beverley's best game as a Sixer

Beverley was all over the place Monday night — in a good way. Particularly in the third quarter, he did all of the things that make him a player whose fans love him dearly (and whose detractors detest him greatly). He made hustle play after hustle play, finally knocked down his first three-point try as a Sixer and capped off his personal run with an and-one at the end of the third quarter. 

Maxey flourishes as a playmaker

Maybe the most frequently-discussed topic this summer when it came to Maxey was whether or not he could improve as a passer. The early returns look good! Maxey continued his ascent tonight, blending wise facilitating with timely scoring, ultimately posting 22 points on 9-16 shooting to go with 11 assists.

More on Embiid, because... come on

To say the Wizards had no answers for Embiid all night would be a tremendous understatement. He completely obliterated every coverage they showed him with ease. 

Embiid finished the game with 48 points, 11 rebounds and six assists on an incredible shooting line of 17-25 from the field and 14-14 — yes, you read that correctly — from the free throw line. He did all of this in just 31 minutes.

One final incredible Embiid statistic: he scored 29 points in the third quarter... and did not miss a shot.
Make no mistake about it, this was his night.