The Washington Wizards were no match for Joel Embiid last season including the postseason. Even though Washington’s roster is much different, it appeared Sunday night that not much has changed.
Embiid had 36 points on 12-for-17 shooting and 13 rebounds in a 117-96 76ers win at Capital One Arena. Both the Sixers and Wizards moved to 17-16.
Danny Green, Andre Drummond, and Shake Milton remained out because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The Wizards’ Bradley Beal, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Raul Neto were also in the league’s protocols.
Here’s three takeaways from their bounce back win:
What a night from the big man
Embiid scored the Sixers’ first eight points with his usual mix of guard-like power. He notched a coast-to-coast transition hoop, a catch-and-shoot three pointer, and an and-one basket inside off of a give-and-go with Tobias Harris. The Sixers took a 10-4 lead, the sort of start they needed following a brutal loss Thursday to the Atlanta Hawks that easily could have been demoralizing.
Daniel Gafford picked up two quick fouls and Montrezl Harrell subbed in, a sequence of events that led to a change in the Wizards’ game. Harrell put in a couple of early field goals, though his lack of size was an obvious issue against Embiid. The Sixers’ star finished with 13 of the team’s 25 first-quarter points.
Harrell (15 points, four rebounds) is always energetic, though, and he helped flip the game’s momentum and gain a 31-25 advantage for the Wizards after a quarter. He took six free throws in the first, while the Sixers attempted five as a team.
Embiid received some welcome assistance in the second quarter as he recorded five of the Sixers’ 38 points in the period. Throughout the game, he appeared eager to attack before the defense was set but content to pass to the open man when double teamed from the post.
With a three-pointer in the third quarter, Embiid reached 7,000 career points in just his 282nd NBA game. Allen Iverson also hit that milestone in Game 282.
Harrell and Embiid had an altercation in the third quarter that resulted in each player receiving a technical foul.
Harrell was ejected 30 seconds later when he shoved Embiid after he converted an and-one layup. Embiid then waved him goodbye, and sunk the extra free throw.
Is the slump… over?
All slumps must come to an end.
Perhaps Furkan Korkmaz is finally due to get hot. Entering Sunday’s action 2 for his last 24 from three-point range, Korkmaz made two long-distance jumpers in his opening stretch and scored 11 points before halftime, including an and-one layup as he fell to the floor.
It was remarkable to see how constant Korkmaz’s confidence exploded. Unlike the norm during his long slump, it was obvious he wanted the ball and believed his shots would go in.
Even though Korkmaz is not super dependable, the Sixers should be very happy to see him scoring again. The bottom line is it’s difficult to play him and expect anything besides a negative impact when his jumpers aren’t dropping. Head coach Doc Rivers has sometimes tried to persuade production out of Korkmaz by putting him in the starting lineup, but there’s an uncontrollable part with players like the 24 year old wing.
Unlike Korkmaz, Seth Curry had an off shooting game, going 4-for-14 from the floor. He started with Tyrese Maxey and recorded a game-high nine assists. There was nothing wrong with his decision-making, Curry is more prone to turn down shots than to be overly aggressive, and Rivers always likes to see him taking open looks.
Georges Niang cleared health and safety protocols and had a decent return with six points (2-for-4 from three) and five rebounds in 17 minutes. Tyler Johnson also made a three off the bench and played a solid second game as a Sixer with five points, two rebounds, and two assists.
Rebounding wasn’t a weakness for the Sixers on Sunday night. In fact, as is rare this season, it was a first-half strength.
While the success didn’t come against an elite rebounding team, the Sixers will take it. They had a 7-2 lead in offensive rebounds at halftime. Washington did improve its rebounding in the second half, but got outplayed otherwise.
Harris grabbed three of those offensive boards and played a strong game overall. He was the main defender on Kyle Kuzma, who recorded 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting.
Although Harris was efficient (23 points on 10-for-16 shooting), he still was too slow and too focused on scoring in separation at times. After not spotting a wide-open Matisse Thybulle near the rim in the third quarter, Harrell bailed himself out by making a contested jumper late in the shot clock. Bad process, good result.
With the Wizards threatening to make the final minutes interesting, Harris pushed the ball up the floor and found Curry for a transition three that gave the Sixers a 103-85 lead and put the night to rest.
The best version of Harris plays with pace and aggression while also being aware of opportunities to set up his teammates.