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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