3 observations after Embiid hangs 48 on Wizards, Sixers win fifth straight

Joel Embiid’s presence was again not required for the fourth quarter.

He was awfully productive over the first three, though.

Embiid played 31 minutes Monday night vs. the Wizards at Wells Fargo Center and had 48 points on 17-for-25 shooting, 11 rebounds and six assists in a 146-128 Sixers victory.

The team is now 5-1 and on a five-game winning streak ahead of a Wednesday night matchup with the Celtics to complete their homestand.

Tyrese Maxey posted 22 points, a career-high 11 assists and zero turnovers. Tobias Harris added 18 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Kyle Kuzma’s 28 points led the Wizards. Jordan Poole scored 23 points for Washington, who dropped to 1-5.

Here are observations on the Sixers’ blowout win Monday night:

Embiid’s frustrating start not a problem at all

Embiid opened just 1 for 5 from the floor.

He objected to what appeared to be multiple missed calls on Daniel Gafford, including a clear rake across the arms as the shot clock expired. Gafford was on his game immediately as a roller, rim-runner and offensive rebounder, too. His third dunk of the night lifted Washington to an 8-2 lead. Gafford was generally stellar against Embiid in the first quarter. Incredibly, he recorded five blocks in under seven minutes.

Harris’ aggression in both the half court and open floor was valuable for the Sixers. He hit two first-quarter jumpers on Kuzma, drew four foul shots, and continued to seem plenty dangerous as a grab-it-and-go, early-offense player. Harris scored 10 of the Sixers’ first 17 points.

Washington’s defense sure does not seem formidable, but the Sixers’ collective pace, passing and decisiveness were all positive and contributed to the impression that the Wizards were an outgunned, low-energy team.

Of course, it also speaks to Embiid’s immense, routine dominance that he can experience an extended stretch of frustration and still score 48 efficient points.

His ruthlessness was especially evident late in the third quarter when he threw down a nasty dunk, stormed in for an and-one layup and seemed fully capable of doing whatever he wanted. It has become very, very common for Embiid to make opponents appear hopelessly outmatched.

“I tell people, ‘He’s ready to go now.’ He’s four, five games in, he’s found his rhythm, he’s hitting his middies, he’s being aggressive,” Maxey said. “I think they kind of made him mad early. It happens, though. But he was great.”

In the third period, Embiid scored 29 points and was flawless from both the floor (10 for 10) and the foul line (9 for 9).

“Yeah, that’s pretty efficient,” Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said.

Not too shabby a Batum debut 

Nicolas Batum made a fantastic first impression.

After being acquired by the Sixers along with Robert Covington, KJ Martin and Marcus Morris Sr., the 34-year-old Frenchman had been away for two games because of a personal matter. In his first action, it took hardly any time for fans to become pleasantly acquainted with him.

Batum nailed two catch-and-shoot jumpers in the first quarter, poked free a steal, and looked self-assured with the fundamentals of following the Sixers’ defensive schemes and spacing the floor around stars.

He drilled another three-pointer to begin the second quarter and even got a long, contested baseline two to fall courtesy of a high, generous bounce into the hole.

Batum won’t duplicate Monday night’s performance every time out there, but his outside shooting is absolutely among the positive traits still intact in his diverse game. Over the past three seasons with the Clippers, Batum shot 39.8 percent from three-point range on 4.2 attempts per game. He has a natural, low-effort, minimal-dip jumper and should have no trouble getting up the catch-and-shoot looks that come his way.

The Sixers’ other four bench players in Monday’s first half were Patrick Beverley, Jaden Springer, Furkan Korkmaz and Paul Reed. Morris debuted late in the third quarter and Covington subbed in early in the fourth.

Melton knew he was due 

Entering Monday’s game, De’Anthony Melton was shooting 28.6 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three-point range.

Nurse said pregame that he’d talked with Melton at shootaround and asked whether he could do anything to help. According to Nurse, Melton essentially told him he was fine and that he’d start making the shots that hadn’t been dropping.

That’s exactly what happened against the Wizards. Though Melton missed a couple of first-half layups, his long-range jumper locked back in; the 25-year-old started 4 for 4 beyond the arc.

“I knew because he’s taking the right shots,” Maxey said of Melton. “He’s not forcing it; he’s playing the right way. The funny thing is, when we came in here at halftime, I said, ‘Hey, Melt, welcome to the season. Thank you for joining us.’

“But honestly, that started from his aggressiveness. When he drove the ball and actually dunked, that’s when I knew, ‘All right, there we go. That’s Melt.’ He was great tonight. He was great offensively and defensively — the way he puts pressure on the ball, gets through screens, gets his hands on deflections. He was big time.”

Melton’s mini-slump hadn’t been a real issue for the Sixers, since their other four starters Monday went into the night averaging over 20 points per game. Kelly Oubre Jr. didn’t maintain that, tallying three points against Washington on 1-for-5 shooting, but the Sixers’ volume and variety of scorers around Embiid has looked like a team strength thus far.

They possess self-creation, transition punch, and players such as Melton who can burn you when they’re hot.

Maxey was relatively quiet scoring-wise for a second straight first half, but his pick-and-roll with Embiid gave Washington serious trouble all night. Maxey broke his previous career high of 10 assists with 3:42 left in the third quarter. He had no turnovers in the game.

“In the first quarter, we ran (the pick-and-roll) one time and I saw how open it was,” Embiid said, “and I just told Coach, ‘Don’t even call nothing any more, we’ll just keep running it.’ And (Maxey) just kept finding me. … They made an adjustment of icing the screen and it didn’t change anything.

“We stuck to the two-man game. It still turned into the same thing. I thought it was great. Any adjustments they made, we just countered.”

The Sixers didn’t have a good defensive outing Monday; they left Kuzma open for a couple of corner threes during a lax period in the third quarter and had a few noticeable breakdowns when they played zone.

However, Embiid’s night and the Sixers’ overall exceptional showing on offense meant that defensive excellence was not at all necessary.

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