3 observations after Embiid, Sixers cruise to fifth straight win


The Sixers were just fine without any late-game heroics Sunday night.

After draining a game-winning jumper Friday against the Trail Blazers, Joel Embiid led the Sixers to their fifth consecutive victory, a 112-93 win at Wells Fargo Center over the Wizards. 

Embiid recorded 34 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and four assists.

James Harden had 18 points and 14 assists.

Corey Kispert led the Wizards (31-37) with 25 points. Bradley Beal posted 13 points and four assists. 

The 45-22 Sixers will begin a three-game road trip Wednesday against the Cavaliers. Here are observations on their dominant win over Washington: 

Tucker, Harris locked in on D  

The Wizards registered a lowlight immediately when Kyle Kuzma attempted a long jumper on their first possession and missed it about three feet wide to the right.

Kuzma opened 0 for 4 from the floor and Washington struggled to generate any offensive flow overall. Big man Daniel Gafford scored the Wizards’ first points on a put-back layup with 9:08 left in the first quarter. 

The pace was rather slow in the first few minutes, but the Sixers accelerated things off of several forced turnovers. After staying on the bench for the fourth quarter of the Sixers’ comeback win over Portland, P.J. Tucker played impactful defense in his initial stint. He stripped Kristaps Porzingis in the post, drew an offensive foul on Beal, and dove on the floor to snag a loose ball before passing to Embiid for a fast-break dunk. Tucker’s effort was excellent, and it ensured the Sixers avoided the sort of poor start against an inferior opponent that they’d made against the Blazers. 


Embiid missed four of his first five field-goal attempts, then hit four in a row. As soon as Taj Gibson checked into the game, Embiid went to work at the elbow, sinking a jumper after a couple of effective jab steps. Gibson did not play the second half because of a non-COVID illness, which took away one of the Wizards’ options on Embiid. 

The Sixers switched in many situations and essentially approached guarding Beal as a team-wide responsibility. Embiid even switched on to Beal occasionally and came out to the three-point line in pick-and-roll coverage. Tobias Harris was strong individually on Beal, doing his best to tail the three-time All-Star around screens and limit his opportunities to catch the ball with space to operate. Late in the second quarter, Harris drew Beal’s third foul and then blocked his jumper from behind on the ensuing possession. Harris' box-score numbers weren't sparkling — he posted 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting and three rebounds — but both he and Tucker set the right tone defensively. 

“Just physical," Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said of Tucker's defense on Porzingis. “Gets up into his body. You almost have to; he’s so long. ... That’s what P.J. does. He can get up under you. He has great hands. Tobias on Beal … I thought Tobias was phenomenal, too, to start the game. Both of those guys I thought defensively were great."

McDaniels’ night ends early 

Kispert, a second-year wing known for his sharpshooting, only went 1 for 3 from long range in the first half. He was flawless inside the arc, though — 5 for 5. 

The Gonzaga product moved well off of the ball and in transition, finding plenty of chances to score inside. His layup with 4.3 seconds remaining in the second quarter off of a Beal feed cut the Sixers’ lead to 55-50. Kispert had 14 points at intermission, just four below his previous high for a game this season. 

Jalen McDaniels scored six points off the bench early in the second quarter. However, he exited prematurely. McDaniels grabbed at his side and grimaced after being fouled by Deni Avdija on a drive with 9:05 left in the second. He made both of his subsequent free throws, but the Sixers then took a foul so McDaniels could go back to the locker room with head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson. 

Early in the third quarter, the Sixers ruled McDaniels out for the rest of the game with a right hip contusion.

“Don’t think it’s serious. ... I think he’ll be fine," Rivers said. “It did scare you. When he first hit, that was a little scary, but it looks like he’ll be OK.” 

Danuel House Jr. subbed in for McDaniels and the Sixers again used an 11-player rotation. Dewayne Dedmon was still out of the rotation, though Rivers said pregame he “definitely” plans to play the veteran center at some point. Paul Reed remained the Sixers' backup five and continued to build upon his connection with Harden during a nice stint in the fourth quarter.


“As a young dude, Paul works," Harden said. “I was in there shooting this morning and he was right there with me. When you’ve got a guy that puts the work in and listens, good things are going to happen for him. He’s already a talented player, but the better connection we can have, the easier it’s going to be on both ends of the ball. He’s been doing a really good job of that.”

Dedmon eventually made an appearance as well, checking in during garbage time and posting four points. It was his first game action since he played on Feb. 4 as a member of the Heat. 

Rivers liked how Dedmon looked and also reiterated his belief in the defensive potential of second-year guard Jaden Springer, who made a sharp pick-and-roll pass to the 33-year-old. 

“He knows how to play," Rivers said of Dedmon. “You can see that. Little roll game; he seals guys; great passes; talks out on the floor. He’s just smart — he’s a veteran. Good hands. So it was good with him, and then … Jaden’s on the floor for three minutes and it felt like he had five steals. He was un-pickable. Defensively, I’m telling you, he’s going to be an elite defensive player in our league.”

Breezy evening for Embiid 

Almost everything looked quite easy offensively for Embiid, who cruised to 22 first-half points. 

Harden hit him often in comfortable spots around the foul line. That was a productive area when Washington mixed in zone defense, too. While it's completely valid for Sixers opponents to be wary of giving Embiid anything close to a 1-on-1 chance in the post, he's also become an all-world player at the nail and elbows.

One aspect of Embiid's development in that area is his passing, which shined when the Wizards sent harder double teams his way late in the third quarter. He made a simple dish back to entry passer De'Anthony Melton for a three that put the Sixers up 80-67.

For the second time in the last three games, Embiid was able to soak in the whole final quarter from the bench. Threes from Melton and Shake Milton helped the Sixers usher the game into true blowout territory. In rather typical Embiid fashion, he had more points than minutes played (31).

“It was great," Embiid said. “I love not playing the fourth quarter. It means that we’re doing something good, so got to keep building on that. We did it as a team. Everybody contributed.

“It’s all about really how we started the game — the intensity defensively. We didn’t go down 20 this time, so it makes it easy.”