Sixers observations

3 observations after Embiid scores Sixers-record 70 points

Embiid had a historic evening.

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Joel Embiid shattered the history books Monday night.

Wilt Chamberlain's 100 points are still the most ever in an NBA game, but Embiid exploded against the Spurs for a Sixers-record 70.

He also had 18 rebounds and five assists in a 133-123 win at Wells Fargo Center.

Sensational No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama posted 33 points and seven rebounds in his first matchup against Embiid. He (and everything else) was ultimately a footnote to Embiid's performance.  

Now on a six-game winning streak, the 29-13 Sixers will open a five-game road trip Thursday night against the Pacers.

Here are observations on Embiid's spectacular night and the Sixers’ victory over San Antonio. 

A taste of Wemby’s talents, potential 

The Sixers’ initial defensive game plan featured Nicolas Batum guarding Wembanyama, who he’s mentored and raved about for years. Embiid roamed around the paint. 

Wembanyama and the Spurs shredded apart that defense over the game’s first few minutes. Jeremy Sochan and former Sixer Julian Champagnie knocked down threes. Wembanyama added a long-range jumper of his own and then showed off his otherworldly fluidity at 7-foot 4 by grabbing a defensive rebound, dribbling up the floor and sinking a smooth pull-up three.

Embiid, Batum and the Sixers soon countered Wembanyama well with some veterans’ tricks of the trade. Embiid got Wembanyama to bite on a convincing pump fake. Batum intercepted a Sochan pass intended for Wembanyama and assisted an Embiid slam with a perfect high-low dish. 

As Wembanyama gains strength and experience, it’s easy to imagine the French phenom becoming much better at holding his ground, earning whistles, and understanding how opponents will try to neutralize his special talents.

Already, it’s obvious that Wembanyama reads the game and grasps nuances at a high level for a 20-year-old. He cut back door on Tobias Harris early in the second quarter and then stopped, sensed the opportunity to get a paint touch, and threw down an effortless dunk. Later in the second, Wembanyama tossed in a clever lefty bucket that Embiid didn’t appear to see coming. 

Spurs hang around despite unstoppable Embiid

Though Wembanyama’s incredible length affected Embiid at times, the reigning MVP was still extremely effective in the first quarter.

Embiid scored 24 points in the opening period and looked capable of doing massive damage everywhere. He drained mid-range jumpers, converted put-back hoops and piled up free throws. Embiid’s life became a bit easier when Wembanyama exited at the 6:27 mark of the first quarter with two fouls. He hit 30 points for a 21st consecutive game late in the second quarter. 

Wembanyama’s foul trouble and Embiid’s dominance didn’t equate to a giant Sixers lead, though. The team shot just 2 for 10 from three-point range in the first half and held a four-point edge at intermission. 

Nurse used a four-man bench of Danuel House Jr., Furkan Korkmaz, Paul Reed and KJ Martin. Reed’s offensive rebounding shined in the second quarter and, with the Sixers shorthanded, Nurse opted to give him some minutes alongside Embiid.

Though the Reed-Embiid stint made sense, it didn’t go well for the Sixers’ defense. Reed fouled Champagnie on a made three, fouled Sochan on a driving layup attempt, and subbed out of the game. 

All-time scoring great at his peak  

Embiid’s finishing wasn’t flawless Monday, but he was glad to clean up misses. 

A third-chance layup with 8:27 to go in the third quarter lifted him to 43 points. He tied his career high of nine offensive rebounds on that play.

While Embiid’s power and persistence often overwhelmed the Spurs, his night sure wasn’t short on skill. He registered a passing highlight in the third quarter with a nifty feed to set up a Kelly Oubre Jr. dunk. 

Of course, Embiid routinely scores better than anyone in the universe. Even with plenty of outings this season where he’s watched the fourth quarter of blowout victories from the bench, he looks on his way to a third straight scoring title. Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, James Harden, Rick Barry and Kobe Bryant are the only NBA players to ever average 35 or more points in a season. It wouldn’t be surprising whatsoever if Embiid joined them. 

Embiid’s scoring total seemed to tick up every few seconds as he attacked Zach Collins late in the third quarter. He tied his prior career high of 59 points on the Sixers’ final third-quarter possession by drilling his first three-pointer of the night. 

The on-court action at the start of the fourth quarter was secondary to the question of whether Embiid would come back in. On a possession where the Spurs grabbed a couple of offensive rebounds and Wembanyama drew a foul, the home fans roared when they saw Embiid rise from his seat on the bench.

The Spurs remained without any real answers (besides fouling) to stop Embiid.

With a little under two minutes left, he rumbled in for a lefty layup and reached 70 points.

It is not hyperbolic to say he is one of the greatest scorers in the sport's history.

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