Philadelphia 76ers

Sixers Vs. Rockets: Joel Embiid Posts Triple-Double in Victory

Joel Embiid recorded his third career triple-double Monday night at Wells Fargo Center in the Sixers' 133-113 win over the Rockets.

3 observations after Embiid posts triple-double, Sixers beat Rockets originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Joel Embiid was the best player on the floor by a wide margin and the Sixers won their fourth straight game Monday night at Wells Fargo Center, a 133-113 victory over the Rockets. 

Embiid had his third career triple-double with 31 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists.

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Furkan Korkmaz posted 24 points on 8-for-14 shooting. 

Houston’s Garrison Matthews scored 23 points on 6-for-10 shooting. 

There was Sixers pregame news aplenty, including that Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle are sidelined because of health and safety protocols. Dan Burke served as acting head coach again with Doc Rivers in COVID-19 protocols.

The Rockets suspended Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr. for Monday’s game after incidents with both players in a loss Saturday to the Nuggets. 

The Sixers now sit at 20-16 and will face the Magic on Wednesday in Orlando. Here are observations on their win over Houston: 

Adjustments required 

Without two key players in Maxey and Thybulle, the Sixers needed to do some rotation juggling. 

Seth Curry started at point guard but exited with 9:18 left in the first quarter after fouling Matthews on a three-point try. Shake Milton replaced Curry and was also overzealous in his defense on the sharpshooting Matthews, giving up a four-point play.

Milton exited after falling to the floor with 7:26 left in the fourth. There was no immediate word on his status, though it appeared Milton injured his back. 

Fouls and transition defense were problems for the Sixers in the first half; the team conceded 20 free throw attempts and 16 fast-break points before halftime. Too many plays when Houston had a clear path into the paint and no Sixer stopped the ball. 

Korkmaz started on the wing and was an early bright spot with three first-period three-pointers and nine of the Sixers’ first 15 points.  

Isaiah Joe provided wing depth behind Green and Korkmaz. He had a nice showing, too. Joe converted an and-one layup, sunk a long three and stepped in to take a charge on a Rockets fast break during a stretch at the beginning of the second quarter. The officials called the play a block, but the anticipation and defensive commitment were positives from Joe regardless. Those qualities were not in abundance among Joe’s teammates. 

Paul Reed played three first-half minutes in an unusual frontcourt alongside Georges Niang and Embiid. His speed and defensive versatility were useful traits against Houston, although Burke still turned to Andre Drummond at backup center despite the Rockets playing small (6-foot-4 Jae’Sean Tate guarded Drummond).

Embiid still sharp, while Harris frustrates fans 

Embiid was opposed by Daniel Theis, a familiar face from the German center’s Celtics days.  

Embiid worked well for deep post position but missed three point-blank shots on one first-quarter possession. The big man was persistent, though, and found his touch soon enough. He fired up the home crowd with a thunderous first-quarter dunk that extended the Sixers’ lead to 22-17.

Overall, however Houston guarded him, the game looked easy to Embiid, who sustained the momentum from his stellar month of December.

As we've repeated time and time again this season, Embiid is flourishing as a passer. When the Sixers had him orchestrate from the top of the key, he looked exceedingly comfortable. 

The players one would’ve expected to be the Sixers’ No. 2 and No. 3 scoring options couldn’t have shot much worse in the first half. Curry and Tobias Harris combined to go 3 for 16 from the floor. 

Harris heard boos Monday night, and the exasperation was understandable. For a player who likes to lean on deliberate back-downs and is feasting less in transition without Ben Simmons, it’s glaringly problematic that he doesn’t draw many foul shots. He’s totaled four free throw attempts in the two games after he notched a career-high 14.

With that said, Harris isn’t always the only one culpable when the Sixers disappoint, even if he’s a logical (and fair) target because of his five-year, $180 million contract. And, though it’s not the only factor relevant, it remains worth noting that Harris said last month, “I still feel like every day I have a cold” after testing positive for COVID-19 in November.

Curry made three jumpers in the early stages of the third, including a triple that built the Sixers’ edge to 82-71. The team trailed by a point at halftime but didn’t seem in serious danger of a loss to the 10-win Rockets unless both Curry and Harris continued to struggle. 

Handling business against zone 

No. 2 pick Jalen Green managed 12 points on 3-for-12 shooting.

In his first game back from COVID-19, Danny Green opened up on Green. Joe and Milton also guarded the 19-year-old and limited his opportunities to thrive with open-floor athleticism.

As covered above, this was not the Sixers’ finest defensive effort as a whole. However, the team mostly handled Houston’s zone defense well. Milton and Joe made consecutive threes against the zone late in the third.

Zone offense has been an issue at times this season, so give the Sixers credit for moving the ball effectively, shooting 17 for 40 from three-point range and having a strong offensive night across the board.

In the end, they handily beat a team they were supposed to handily beat, which hasn't been common during the 2021-22 campaign.

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