Sixers observations

3 observations after Sixers steamroll Wizards from the jump in 45-point win

Joel Embiid posted 34 points and Tyrese Maxey added 24.

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The Sixers won’t mind that their fourth quarter Monday night was devoid of drama. 

They handled the Wizards very decisively before the fourth, steamrolling to a 146-101 win at Wells Fargo Center. 

Joel Embiid had 34 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in 30 minutes. Over his 25 minutes, Tyrese Maxey posted 24 points and six assists. 

Kyle Kuzma was the 3-19 Wizards' leading scorer with 21 points. Five Wizards were sidelined, including center Daniel Gafford (right hip contusion). 

Embiid played after having been listed as questionable with left knee soreness. Asked postgame about his knee, Embiid simply said, “I’m good.”

Now 15-7 and on a three-game winning streak, the Sixers will play the Pistons on Wednesday night in Detroit.

Here are observations on their blowout victory over Washington: 

An immediate flood of three-pointers 

The Sixers’ jumpers were all wayward to begin their game last Wednesday at Capital One Arena. They started that narrow win 0 for 13 from three-point range.

Monday was much different; the Sixers made long-distance shots on each of their first four possessions. Maxey drained three of them, lifting his three-point percentage for the season comfortably over 40. Tobias Harris, who’d gone 2 for his past 17 from three, knocked down the other. 

The Wizards looked like a team near the bottom of the standings on both ends of the ball. They conceded open jumpers, struggled to gain traction in half-court offense and appeared very deflated once Maxey hit a couple of shots and the Sixers’ lead swelled to double digits. After the Wizards turned to zone defense, Embiid drilled a foul-line jumper that put the Sixers up 19-2. 

The Sixers’ second unit continued to shred Washington’s zone. Kelly Oubre Jr. made a catch-and-shoot wing jumper, Patrick Beverley sunk a trio of threes late in the first quarter, and the Sixers piled up 43 points in the period. 

The quality of opponent was obviously not the finest, but the Sixers pushed the pace impressively.

“I thought we played fast tonight off of stops,” Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said. “Obviously we got a bunch of stops early, so we were out off defensive rebounds, but we were getting up the floor quick. I think of the first four (three-pointers), three came in transition. ... It was good to see.”

The team also seemed to enjoy spreading the ball around and finding whoever was open. Embiid tried one flashy open-floor, no-look pass to De’Anthony Melton, though he couldn’t hit him in stride. Two Embiid behind-the-back pass attempts skidded out of bounds. 

While the Sixers didn’t need anything close to the 50-point performance Embiid had delivered last Wednesday, his decision-making was sharp when he wasn’t seeking highlight dimes. Embiid had no trouble scoring efficiently, too. Almost nothing was difficult for him and the Sixers. 

Covington back, Reed on same page with Nurse 

Nurse used a 10-man rotation Monday. Robert Covington returned following a DNP in the Sixers’ win over the Hawks.

Covington made the first shot he took, a wing three that extended the Sixers’ advantage to 26 points under 17 minutes into the game. 

“You’ve got to be prepared,” Covington said. “You’ve got to be a pro. Every time you step on that court, when your name’s called, you’ve got to be prepared. That’s it. I went through the stuff I went through in L.A. and everybody asked the same questions: ‘How do I stay ready?’ It’s a mental thing.”

The Wizards’ energy level was negligible Monday and the Sixers gladly capitalized. Stationed in the right corner, Maxey bobbled a pass and then re-gathered it. Still wide-open, he fired up another three and canned it to give the Sixers a 67-36 lead late in the second quarter. Heat checks were readily available throughout the first half for Maxey (and any other Sixer). 

In contrast to Washington, the Sixers maintained good defensive attentiveness and effort in the second quarter. The Wizards had 14 first-half turnovers and missed 11 of their first 12 three-pointers. Some of those looks were ones Washington would typically convert, but the Sixers generally had decent defensive fundamentals and rotations. 

Paul Reed improved upon his Friday night performance against Atlanta. He was focused and solid defensively while providing his usual activity on the glass. Nurse said pregame that he’d talked with Reed about deciding to play Mo Bamba over him in Friday’s fourth quarter. Nurse indicated that he feels Reed has played well in the large majority of games and remains the Sixers’ top backup center. 

He’s clearly still a fan of Reed’s hustling, high-energy, ball-finding game. 

“Of course it’s been frustrating, but I held myself accountable, looked myself in the mirror,” Reed said after the Sixers’ Monday morning shootaround. “And after watching film, I saw that I did a lot of things wrong out there — a lot of (blown) defensive coverages, and I had a lot of turnovers. I feel like I’ve got to just do better on my end and make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Embiid shows off in third, Sixers leave fourth to the subs

As is natural, the Sixers’ intensity dipped a touch coming out of halftime and the Wizards got a few more jumpers to drop.

Embiid was unstoppable, though. From an elegant fadeaway jumper over former teammate Mike Muscala to a thunderous dunk, Embiid scored just about any time (and in any way) he desired.

If he’d played the full night, it’s entirely possible Embiid would’ve maintained or even increased his season scoring average vs. Washington, which was 49 points per game entering Monday. 

With 1:25 left in the third quarter, Embiid subbed out for the final time. Reed then assisted a Marcus Morris Sr. three that gave the Sixers a 43-point lead. Danuel House Jr., Jaden Springer and Furkan Korkmaz came in with a little over nine minutes to go. Bamba soon joined them (and played alongside Reed).

Nurse was pleased with those players' outings on a night where all 15 active Sixers scored.

“Just the way things stack up, we’ve got a pretty deep team,” he said. “I’d like to get all those guys more minutes, but you just can’t do it. So give them a lot of credit, because there is a battle going on for some of those positions and that’s their opportunity. I think most of them went out there and played very well.”

Winning games by 45 points isn't the norm in the NBA, but the Sixers should be capable of earning similarly long stretches of garbage time in their upcoming two-game mini-series against Detroit. The 2-21 Pistons are the one Eastern Conference team with a worse record than the Wizards.

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