The Wizards were no match for Joel Embiid last regular season or postseason.
Even though Washington’s roster is much different, it appeared Sunday night as if little has changed.
Embiid had 36 points on 12-for-17 shooting and 13 rebounds in a 117-96 Sixers 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.
The Sixers will face the Raptors on Tuesday in Toronto. Here are observations on their victory over Washington:
Embiid ensures a better start
Embiid scored the Sixers’ first eight points with his usual mix of guard-like nimbleness and 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 loss Thursday to the 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’ fortune. Harrell put in a couple of early field goals, though his lack of size was a predictable 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 and relentless, though, and he helped Washington flip the game’s momentum and gain a 31-25 advantage 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 5 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 a third-period altercation that resulted in each player receiving a technical foul. Harrell was then ejected 30 seconds later when he shoved Embiid after the big man converted an and-one layup. The four-time All-Star is an irritating opponent.
Light at the end of the tunnel?
No slumps are infinite.
Perhaps Furkan Korkmaz is finally due to get hot — or at least something besides frigid. Entering Sunday’s action 2 for his last 24 from three-point range, Korkmaz made two long-distance jumpers in his opening stint and scored 11 points before halftime, including an and-one layup as he fell to the floor.
It was remarkable to see how rapidly Korkmaz’s confidence surged. In a departure from the norm during his long slump, it was obvious he wanted the ball and believed his shots would go in.
Even though Korkmaz is a volatile player and not especially dependable, the Sixers are surely glad 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 coax production out of Korkmaz by putting him on the first unit, but there’s an uncontrollable element with players like the Turkish wing. If you put him out there, a lot comes down to make or miss.
In contrast to Korkmaz, Seth Curry had an off shooting game, going 4 for 14 from the floor. He started alongside Tyrese Maxey and recorded a game-high nine assists on the night. There was certainly 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-point range) 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.
Bright half on the glass
Rebounding wasn’t a weakness for the Sixers on Sunday night. In fact, in a rare occurrence this season, it was a first-half strength.
While the success didn’t come against an elite rebounding team (the Wizards entered the game 28th in offensive rebounding percentage, per Cleaning the Glass), the Sixers will take it. They had a 7-2 edge 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 primary defender on Kyle Kuzma, who posted 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 isolation 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. The best version of Harris plays with pace and aggression while also being aware of opportunities to set up his teammates.