Joel Embiid scores 46 points in loss to Golden State

3 observations after special Embiid scores 46, Sixers fall to Warriors originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The shorthanded Sixers failed to capitalize Friday on the latest special Joel Embiid performance.

The team’s seven-game road winning streak ended at Chase Center with a 120-112 loss despite Embiid’s 46-point, nine-rebound, eight-assist outing.

Jordan Poole scored 33 points off of Golden State’s bench. Stephen Curry posted 29 points and Klay Thompson had 21.

James Harden (left Achilles soreness) and Jalen McDaniels (right hip soreness) remained out. Danuel House Jr. was also sidelined with right shoulder soreness. Sixers head coach Doc Rivers told reporters pregame that there’s a chance Harden will play Saturday night against the Suns and “a bigger chance” he’ll play Monday in Denver.

Golden State was without Andrew Wiggins, Gary Payton II, Andre Iguodala and Ryan Rollins.

After sitting out the second half of the Sixers’ win Wednesday over the Bulls because of right calf tightness, Embiid was clearly good to go.

At 49-24, the Sixers are one game behind the Celtics for the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed. Boston beat the Pacers on Friday night.

Here are observations on the Sixers’ loss to the Warriors:

Strong early signs on D

De’Anthony Melton started his second straight game and guarded Curry.

The two-time MVP’s perpetual motion burned Melton twice early as Curry got a couple of easy layups. Every opponent knows Draymond Green’s passing, Curry’s movement and Golden State’s split cuts are dangerous, but the Warriors’ offense is impossible to truly simulate.

Still, the Sixers effectively contained Golden State in the first quarter. Embiid was active on the perimeter in pick-and-roll coverage, often coming “up to touch,” and his teammates generally rotated well to limit Green’s interior passing options. Green committed three first-quarter turnovers, which helped the Sixers create a few open-floor chances. The team’s transition defense was solid, too.

Story continues

Despite a nightmarish shooting start — 0 for their first 8 from three-point range — the Sixers led 27-23 after a quarter.

As long as Embiid is on the floor, they’ve seemed capable of playing high-level defense in almost any circumstances. During the 14-game stretch Harden missed this season with a right foot tendon strain, the Sixers had the NBA’s best defensive rating. 

Embiid brilliant and inevitable 

Embiid’s shooting was slightly off to begin the night. He missed his first three long-distance shots and two early free throws.

However, there’s a powerful inevitability to Embiid’s game. He looked especially aggressive once Kevon Looney subbed out, drawing fouls aplenty and attacking Jonathan Kuminga from the nail with a nifty spin move and bucket inside. Looney tends to do an admirable job on Embiid, but the six-time All-Star just has so many ways to counter whatever a defense throws at him.

Again, he continued to appear quite comfortable as a passer, dishing a high-low assist to Tobias Harris and finding the open man off of double teams from the nail and the post. He’s made impressive development in terms of correctly anticipating what the right pass will be while not predetermining (or telegraphing) his decision.

Harris was excellent as the Sixers’ No. 2 scorer in the first half, notching 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting. He used his size and strength well on several occasions, including a driving, and-one hoop against Thompson, but Harris was also selective and not too enamored with his own post-up game. He made a wing jumper early in the third quarter that moved him past Hersey Hawkins and into fifth place on the Sixers’ all-time made three-pointers list. After a rough patch during which he shot 11 for 37 (29.7 percent) from the floor, it’s been an encouraging week for Harris.

Embiid, Harris and Tyrese Maxey combined to score 44 of the Sixers’ 53 first-half points. Maxey hit half of the Sixers’ eight threes in the game and reached 300 triples in his career (on over 40 percent shooting) in the third quarter.

Unfortunately for the Sixers, Maxey missed his final five field goals and it grew obvious that if the Sixers won, it would be almost entirely because of Embiid’s MVP-level play.

Major depth deficit 

The Sixers lacked depth Friday and ultimately lost despite outscoring the Warriors by 13 points in Embiid’s 38 minutes on the floor.

Only seven Sixers played more than six minutes and Furkan Korkmaz received his first rotation action in a long time. Shake Milton and Georges Niang, the team’s two main bench players, scored five points apiece. P.J. Tucker was scoreless and missed all five of his field-goal attempts, including two corner threes the Warriors were glad to see him take late in the fourth quarter. Rivers subbed Niang in for Tucker with 2:20 left. Melton also had an empty evening from three-point range (0 for 4) and finished with eight points on 3-for-9 shooting overall.

Meanwhile, Poole had a massive impact for the Golden State second unit. He contributed to a 13-2 Warriors run at the beginning of the second quarter and was fantastic throughout the fourth. Paul Reed played a little under two minutes to start the second before Rivers shifted to small ball. Those lineups have tended to be stellar offensively for the Sixers, but much of that success has been generated by Harden.

Rivers went back to Reed to open the fourth quarter and a Milton-to-Reed alley-oop extended the Sixers’ edge to 11 points. That advantage was very short-lived, though. Poole soon ripped off a personal 7-0 run capped by a crowd-pleasing dunk immediately after Reed missed two foul shots.

It still seemed Embiid alone might lift the Sixers to victory. He was tremendous as soon as he checked back in, displaying heaps of skill, savviness, power and fluidity. The Sixers struggled to get stops, however, and Embiid couldn’t convert two late mid-range jumpers that would’ve tied the game at 112-all. Poole nailed a clutch corner three and the Sixers fell to just their second road loss since the All-Star break.


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