76ers

Sixers 121, Rockets 93: Joel Embiid dominates in convincing win over James Harden and company

Sixers 121, Rockets 93: Joel Embiid dominates in convincing win over James Harden and company

BOX SCORE

On a night the MVP favorite was in the building, the Sixers’ MVP put on a show.

Joel Embiid was dominant in a 121-93 drubbing of James Harden and the Rockets on Monday, Martin Luther King Day, at the Wells Fargo Center. 

The Sixers did so without the services of Jimmy Butler who has a “slight sprain” in his right wrist. 

The win improves them to 20-5 at home and 31-17 overall. They're also in the midst of a brutal 12-game stretch in which they've started 2-1.

Here are observations from the victory:

• Embiid was sensational. There was no chance Nene or newcomer Kenneth Faried was stopping him Monday night. Then again, the way he was playing, there may not have been anyone in the league that could’ve stopped Embiid.

From a physical standpoint, this is the best Embiid has looked since we found out about his back tightness last Thursday before the Pacers game. With the way Harden has played, it’ll be hard for anyone else to win the award, but Embiid certainly looked the part of an MVP Monday — especially if defense is a factor.

Embiid definitely relished the matchup, finishing with 32 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks in just 26 minutes.

• Unless you’ve been living under rock, you know that Harden has been playing at an insane level. Coming in, he averaged 44.4 points on 17.4 attempts from three and 13.9 from the free throw line since Jan. 1. 

You’re not going to stop him, but Brett Brown did everything he could to try to slow down and frustrate him. Corey Brewer, who started in place of Jimmy Butler, got the first crack at his former teammate. Harden also saw Wilson Chandler, Ben Simmons and T.J. McConnell.

As a team, it did as good of a job as you can do, but a ton of credit has to go to McConnell. He seemed to get under the MVP candidate’s skin and recorded a steal and a block in the first quarter.

Harden still got his, putting up 37 points on 12 of 26 from the field. The Rockets were also without two starters in point guard Chris Paul (strained left hamstring) and big man Clint Capela (right thumb).

• Brewer, who is with the Sixers on a 10-day contract, gave the team a boost. He air-balled a three on his first shot attempt, but converted on a nice baseline drive on his very next touch.

He managed to agitate Harden as well. During a sequence in the second quarter, Harden stuck his head right into Brewer’s chest as both players trailed the play. Unfortunately, no official saw it. Then with time running out in the half, Harden gave Brewer a shove and a foul was called. The two are friends, but you wouldn’t have known it.

All of the action elicited chants of “Cor-ey Bre-wer” from the crowd. Only in Philly …

It’s an incredibly small sample size and nothing in the box score will blow you away, but Brewer has already showed enough in a short stint to deserve a longer look. He’s 32 now, but he hasn’t lost one bit of his explosiveness. Brown mentioned when they signed Brewer that he could see the veteran wing flying up the court with Simmons. You saw it vs. the Rockets.

He’s an improvement over anything the Sixers can provide off the bench with his athleticism and the ability to defend on the wing. Plus, he seems to have fit right into the team's culture.

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2019 NBA free agent targets: Could Patrick Beverley or Malcolm Brogdon fit with the Sixers?

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2019 NBA free agent targets: Could Patrick Beverley or Malcolm Brogdon fit with the Sixers?

The Sixers have plenty of housekeeping to do with just four players on their roster — plus first-round pick Matisse Thybulle — but they may need some outside help as well.

We begin our free agency targets by looking at possible point guard options. With Ben Simmons clearly entrenched in the starting role, we won’t be looking at the big names like Kyrie Irving and D’Angelo Russell.

These five players would fit nicely in a bench role or perhaps starting next to Simmons.

Patrick Beverley

Beverley will become a fan favorite most likely immediately. The 30-year-old guard is a defensive maven whose best skill is getting under his opponents’ skin. In addition to that, Beverley has become an elite three-point shooter. He’s shot nearly 40 percent on over four attempts a game over the last four seasons. Beverley likely won’t come cheap, but if you’re unable to bring back only one — or neither — of Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris, he’d make a ton of sense. He’s not necessarily a true point guard offensively, but with his ability to shoot, he’d slot in quite nicely next to Simmons.

Malcolm Brogdon

This one is a little tricky because Brogdon is a restricted free agent and there is no doubt Milwaukee would love to re-sign him. The issue is that the Bucks are dealing with their own cap issues after giving Eric Bledsoe an extension and with starters Khris Middleton and Robin Lopez about to hit the open market. Brogdon is just a complete player. His shooting numbers were elite last season as part of the 50/40/90 club. He can rebound, he can pass, he doesn’t turn the ball over and is a strong defender. He’s the perfect kind of complementary player for the Sixers — if they can afford him — and you’d be taking away from one of your main competitors.

Cory Joseph

If you look just at Joseph’s numbers, you might wonder why he’s on this list. He’s not much of a scorer and his three-point shooting has been pretty volatile during his NBA career. With that said, he’s an excellent defender. Think about how much the Sixers struggled during the season with scoring guards and in the pick-and-roll. Joseph can be the guy who sticks Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie. He’s an upgrade over T.J. McConnell defensively and he’ll at least take open looks. Joseph spent his first two seasons in San Antonio while Brett Brown was in charge of player development, so there’s a connection there.

Trey Burke

While Burke will likely never live up to his status as a top-10 pick, there’s still an intriguing NBA skill set there. He’s a shot creator, something the Sixers could use, and his three-point shooting has been above average over his last three NBA seasons (37 percent). His size and defense will be a concern, but you’d hope the presence of Simmons could help mitigate that. Burke is still just 26 so there’s also a reasonable chance he improves — especially when surrounded by better players. 

Delon Wright

Wright is a tier below some of these other names, but he’s interesting. A first-round pick in 2015, Wright spent the first 3 ½ seasons of his career in Toronto before going to Memphis in the Marc Gasol trade. His shooting has been pretty up and down, but he can score thanks to his ability to change speeds. He has great size at 6-foot-5 and is a decent passer and rebounder. Defensively, he’s long and versatile and is active in passing lanes. He’s restricted so Memphis can match offers, but how much do they want to spend on a guard with Ja Morant now in the fold?

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Strong basketball bloodline runs through Sixers' second-round pick Marial Shayok

Strong basketball bloodline runs through Sixers' second-round pick Marial Shayok

For Marial Shayok, basketball is in his blood. His 6-foot-9 father, Makor, was a fierce rebounder at Dayton University before playing overseas. His older sister Yar, who is 6-1, carried on the tradition with a solid career at the University of Detroit Mercy before playing overseas herself. His older brother Shayok, who also stands 6-9, played at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“I was born into it,” Shayok said to NBC Sports Philadelphia Friday. “Even the neighborhood that I was raised in was a basketball neighborhood, with the rise of Vince Carter when I was a young kid, and having a bunch of stars in the NBA really emerge, like rockstars. So basketball was always the main thing in my life and the dream.”

Marial is now the first Shayok, and Ottawa native, to reach the NBA.

“I was able to be the first one out of my family, out of my city of Ottawa, to be drafted to the NBA and I’m so happy and grateful to be in this position,” Shayok said.

“Everyone (in my family) had a part in this accomplishment and so we were all obviously very emotional.”

One of the oldest players in the draft at 23 years old, Shayok knew there were no guarantees on draft night. Shayok had worked out for the Sixers early in the draft process, but he had also worked out with 14 other teams, in addition to showcasing his skills at the Portsmouth Invitational, Combine and G-League Elite camp.

He knew he had a solid season as a redshirt senior at Iowa State, as the only player nationally to average 18.5 points while shooting at least 49 percent from the field, 38 percent behind the arc, and 87 percent at the free throw line.

But, he also knew his offensive abilities weren’t on display for the first three years of his collegiate career at the University of Virginia.

“Just trying to stay positive,” Shayock said about the uncertainty on draft night. “I think I did pretty well in the draft process. … and I really just left it in God’s hands, kept my faith and I’m just glad and grateful that I’m here.”

Sixers general manager Elton Brand is glad, too.

“We studied him for awhile,” Brand said Thursday night after the draft concluded. “Started for three years at Virginia, where he was more of a defensive player and then he transferred and became an offensive player, averaging over 18 points per game, great three-point shooter. Tough, gritty. Young talent and he can play.”

The Sixers have already made their impression on Shayock.

“The organization is obviously one of the best in the league, one of the best teams in the league with the talent they have, with two of the biggest stars in the NBA," he said. "Me, being the player that I am, hopefully I can just come in and be confident and help win games.

“It’s surreal, a dream come true, still hard to believe. I don’t even think it’s sunk in yet. But it’s reality and I’m just definitely grateful and glad that I’m here.”

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