3 observations after Embiid, Sixers keep streaks alive, crush Rockets originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Seven straight Joel Embiid performances with 30-plus points, a season-high seven straight Sixers victories.
Behind another magnificent Embiid game — 31 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two blocks — the Sixers cruised to a 111-91 win Monday night at Toyota Center over the Rockets. The team sits at 23-16, while Houston dropped to 11-31.
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The Sixers were missing six players, including ball handlers Tyrese Maxey (health and safety protocols), Shake Milton (back contusion) and Seth Curry (left ankle soreness.)
Paul Reed (health and safety protocols), Jaden Springer (non-COVID illness) and Ben Simmons (personal reasons) were also out.
Houston was down Eric Gordon (right groin tightness), Alperen Sengun (right ankle sprain), Armoni Brooks (protocols) and Trevelin Queen (personal reasons).
Embiid and the Sixers can extend their respective streaks on Wednesday night against the Hornets in Philadelphia. Here are observations on their victory in Houston:
Embiid's got all the answers
Embiid has developed reliable counters to whatever a defense throws at him.
Against an individual defender, he’s capable of capitalizing on excessive aggression, too much cushion, or a momentary lapse in balance. Against double teams, he’s glad to hit an open teammate, drain fadeaway jumpers that defenders can’t bother, or draw foul shots by finding one of the many arms trying to swat the ball from him. With the assistance of trainer Drew Hanlen, who Embiid often credits in discussing his development, he’s systematically addressed prior weaknesses like passing out of double teams and built on his many strengths. It’s resulted in a player who exudes invincibility when he’s fully healthy and his jump shots are falling.
Houston center Daniel Theis picked up his second foul with six minutes left in the first period, though the Rockets kept him in the game. Embiid scored 17 first-period points on six field-goal attempts, shooting 9 for 9 from the foul line.
Embiid turned the ball over in the first quarter attempting a circus variety behind-the-head dish on a fast break, but he was otherwise good at making sensible passes. Working from the top of the key, Embiid set Matisse Thybulle up for two corner three-pointers early in the third period.
Thybulle, who Embiid roasted a bit in a joint postgame press conference Friday for not taking open looks, fired on both plays, missing the first shot and making the second. He later knocked down a contested three and posted a second consecutive efficient double-figure scoring game with 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting.
Of course, Embiid’s dimes weren’t all textbook, routine plays. He showed some style and flair on a one-handed pass for an Isaiah Joe third-quarter three that built the Sixers’ lead to 81-66, extending his arm after Joe’s basket as he might have for a clutch jumper of his own.
Embiid's night was done soon after that assist. He only needed to play 26 minutes, none in the fourth quarter.
Lots of defense to offense
The Sixers’ defense was significantly better than during their win a week ago over Houston.
Thybulle’s presence clearly helped — he was strong on Kevin Porter Jr. (eight points on 2-for-9 shooting) — but the Sixers as a whole did a nice job of limiting the Rockets’ dribble penetration and executing multiple rotations when a Houston guard beat his man off the bounce and kicked the ball out.
Korkmaz began on No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green and boosted the Sixers’ early momentum with a steal and transition layup. The Sixers took a 24-12 lead and scored the game’s first nine fast-break points.
The youthful Rockets turned the ball over 21 times and the Sixers scored 29 points off of those giveaways.
(Almost) no point guards? No problem
Korkmaz, who said Sunday he’s “feeling more like a point guard,” started next to Thybulle, Danny Green, Tobias Harris and Embiid.
To begin the game, Korkmaz was at his “I believe everything’s going in and therefore it pretty much is” best. He made his first five field goals, including a mid-range jumper created by two convincing pump fakes in quick succession and a lefty finger roll after driving by Jalen Green. That shot gave the Sixers a 20-point second-quarter lead.
Though Korkmaz was quiet for the rest of the night and Harris had an off game with 13 points on 6-for-17 shooting, the Sixers never let Houston mount a serious charge despite the team’s lack of ball handlers.
Two-way player Myles Powell was the Sixers’ backup point guard in his fifth NBA appearance and finished with six points on 3-for-8 shooting, four rebounds and two assists. He played with poise given the circumstances, though he committed a turnover late in the first quarter when he threw a wayward pick-and-pop pass to Embiid. Powell’s job offensively was to look for transition chances when possible and get the Sixers into their half-court offense. He checked those boxes just fine.
Joe (10 points, 2 for 6 from three-point range) returned to the rotation after a game out because of back pain. He was solid as a point-of-attack defender on Rockets backup ball handler D.J. Augustin.
Charlie Brown Jr. saw action for a second straight game and deflected a pass within seconds of checking in. Not a glittering stat line (one point, four rebounds, two steals in 22 minutes), but Brown has looked like an NBA-level athlete during this 10-day hardship deal.
Porter was ejected in the fourth for shouldering Brown on a fast break. Brown smiled off the Flagrant 2 foul and kept playing.