Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris power Sixers’ balanced attack over undermanned Washington Wizards in 117-96 victory
Embiid had game highs of 36 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks to go with a steal.
WASHINGTON — The 76ers finally did what they’re supposed to do against an undermanned opponent: Blow them out.
Sunday marked their fifth straight game against an opponent missing an All-Star-caliber player because of COVID-19 or an injury. And the Washington Wizards had no chance.
The Sixers rolled to a 117-96 victory at the Capital One Arena.
The victory improved the Sixers to 17-16 and marked their second win in three games after losing three straight. The Wizards (17-16) had their two-game winning streak snapped.
On this night, the Sixers prevailed with a balanced attack.
Joel Embiid had game highs of 36 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks to go with a steal. Tobias Harris added 23 points, seven rebounds and a steal.
Reserve Furkan Korkmaz (14 points), Tyrese Maxey (13), and Seth Curry (11) were the Sixers’ other double-digit scorers.
The Sixers outscored the Wizards, 67-41, over the second and third quarters to put the game out of reach.
“The first quarter I thought they drove it,” Doc Rivers said. “They got whatever they wanted. Then we kind of settled down, had stops. The ball was moving. The ball found open guys. We kept the game simple.
“Joel was dominant tonight. But I just thought our overall play was as far as defensively and the way we handled everything as far as moving the ball.”
Washington shot 64.7% in the first quarter, but only shot 24-for-73 (32.8%) the rest of the way.
Spencer Dinwiddle paced the Wizards with 17 points.
Washington was without three-time All-Star Bradley Beal along with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for the second straight game because they are in COVID protocols. Raul Neto joined them for Sunday’s game. Meanwhile, Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury) was also sidelined. Rui Hachimura was in uniform but didn’t play. He still needs to get in game shape after time away from the team for personal reasons.
To be fair, the Sixers have also been undermanned because of injuries and health and safety protocols.
Shake Milton, Andre Drummond, and Danny Green remain in protocols for the Sixers. George Niang returned to action after missing the last four games with COVID. Maxey was also cleared to play after being listed as questionable due to protocols. It appears the point guard was briefly placed in protocols because of an inconclusive COVID-19 test result.
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With his 19th point, Joel Embiid joins Hall of Famer Allen Iverson as the only Sixers to reach 7,000 points within their first 300 games. They both reached it in their 282nd game. Embiid currently has 7,017 points.
The center made 12 of 17 shots, going 2 of 5 on three-pointers.
“It’s great,” Embiid said of the milestone. “Obviously, I said it earlier. Obviously, I wish I was more healthy. I probably would have had at least 15,000 points by now. But it’s great, but that’s not the focus. The goal is always to get better every single day so we have a chance at winning the championship.”
The 27-year-old sat out his first two seasons because of two foot surgeries. He had season-ending surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee during the 2016-17 campaign. The following year, he missed time because of an orbital bone fracture near his left eye. And Embiid was sidelined for an extended time each season after that because of injuries and, in the case of this season, COVID.
Korkmaz’s bounce-back game
Embiid and Harris were the Sixers’ most dominant players, which came as no surprise. But Korkmaz broke out of a shooting slump while also putting his imprint on the game.
The reserve swingman made 5 of 9 shots in his second game back from a bout with the flu. Korkmaz shot 2-for-6 in Thursday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks. He had been in a shooting slump for 18 games.
Niang finished with six points in his return. He first entered the game with 4 minutes, 11 seconds left in the first quarter. He initially looked a little fatigued and out of sorts in his first game in 13 days. Maybe he just had to knock some rust off and get his feet under him.
The reserve power forward buried his first shot, a three-pointer, 59 seconds into the second quarter. On the ensuing possession, he grabbed a defensive rebound that led to a Korkmaz three-pointer at the other end. Then Niang added a three-pointer to knot the score at 37 with 9:47 left in the quarter.
He went on to score six points on 2-for-4 shooting to go with two rebounds and a steal during an 8:50 stint in the first half. He finished with 2-for-6 shooting and five rebounds in 17:22.
Things get testy
Embiid took exception to Montrezl Harrell fouling him with 3:04 left in the third quarter. The players had to be separated after the Wizards post player grabbed Embiid. They both received technical fouls on the play.
“He got me pretty hard,” Embiid said of Harrell’s foul. “I don’t think he made a play on the ball. He got me pretty hard. We got tangled and that was really it. He tried to hold me, and that was really it.”
Embiid kept his cool after they were separated. He knocked down the pair of foul shots. Then Harrell dunked on him on the ensuing possession. But Embiid returned the favor by scoring a layup while being fouled by Harrell on the Sixers’ next possession. The Sixers’ four-time All-Star celebrated the play by yelling and pointing in the stands. Harrell took exception and shoved Embiid, drawing his second technical foul in 30 seconds. As a result, he was disqualified from the game.
“That’s the whole thing about being smart, having a high basketball IQ,” Embiid said of keeping his cool. “I wouldn’t say I baited him into that [second technical foul]. But I like to think I’m a troll. I like to think that I kind of made him get out of his comfort zone, and that got him kicked out.
“But it’s just basketball, and playing basketball. Basketball is also mental. You’ve got to be able to get into your [opponent’s] heads. I thought that’s what I did.”
Upset, Harrell kept yelling something in the direction of Embiid while leaving the court.
“I was just smiling,” Embiid said. “I was smiling because he told me that I didn’t do anything all game which is surprising because, at that point, I think I had like 30 in 20 minutes. Like I said, I’m just glad we got the win.”
The Wizard said the double technical was called the way it was supposed to be called. But he said the taunting should have been called both ways.
“He got an and-one, he wanted to yell in my face and stuff like that,” Harrell said. “I pushed him off ... He was ‘Uh-oh, I got pushed.’ Stand on your toughness, bro. If you are so tough ... you know, stand on that, my dude. Don’t start doing the nitpicking and the pointing and wanting to do that talking when the ref walks by. Stand on that, my guy, because as you see, I am.”
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Curry guts it out
Curry injured his left rib area while fouling Corey Kispert with 7:53 left in the second quarter. The Sixers shooting guard fell to the court and lay in pain for a minute before getting back to his feet. He remained in the game but kept rubbing his left side during a timeout. Curry also rubbed his side while walking to the locker room at halftime.
But he played all but 1:25 of the quarter. The shooting guard played 35:05 for the game.
Philly Love in D.C.
There were 16,767 fans in attendance with a large portion being Sixers, many of whom made the two-hour trek down from Philly.
At times, they were louder than the Wizards fans and even chanted MVP following several big plays by Embiid.
“Philly fans travel,” Rivers said. “I didn’t know that until now coaching them on the road, all over. I’ve been really impressed with how many fans come to the game in their gear. That’s that Philly toughness. They’re not just going to show up. They’re going to show up with their jerseys to let you know they’re from Philly.
“I think that’s great. I love it.”
Following the game, Embiid signed autographs and posed for pictures for several minutes before heading into the tunnel.
Sixers rookie Jaden Springer (two points) and two-way player Myles Powell (three) scored their first NBA points in the fourth quarter.
The Sixers travel to Toronto for Tuesday’s game against the Raptors at Scotiabank Arena. The Raptors are 14-16 after losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday.