Wizards fend off Joel Embiid, defeat Sixers on MLK Day

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Wizards fend off Joel Embiid, defeat Sixers on MLK Day originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards beat the Philadelphia 76ers 117-98 at Capital One Arena on Monday afternoon in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee. Here are five observations from what went down...

Big win

Perhaps it's more indicative of the Wizards being a close-to-.500 team than anything, but lately it has been difficult to set an expectation for them from night-to-night. Two days after losing to a bad Blazers team, they turned around and served up one of their best wins in quite some time by beating the red-hot Sixers at home.

Philly had won 10 of their last 12 games, yet the Wizards jumped out early and never let them get very close. It wasn't a blowout until the Wizards ran away late, it was more a thorough win where they kept the Sixers at arm's length. They did so even as superstar Joel Embiid scored 32 points, the 12th time in 14 games he's reached the 30-mark.

The Wizards got the victory with their head coaching seat being filled by the back-up to the back-up. Acting head coach Pat Delany joined Wes Unseld Jr. in health and safety protocols, leaving assistant Joe Blair to take his place. Blair has an interesting past that includes time as a player for the Harlem Globetrotters.

While they were down some coaches, the Wizards got got star guard Bradley Beal back on Monday afternoon following a three-game absence in protocols. That helped, of course, as the Wizards moved to 23-21 on the year and to 1-1 against the Sixers.

Beal was back

Beal was solid with 13 points on 5-for-12 shooting along with six assists and five rebounds. But his return was perhaps more significant for what it meant in the big picture. With Beal, the Wizards had their complete roster for the first time this season, in Game 44.

Who knows how long that will last. Injuries always seem to play a factor and other circumstances can take place, particularly with health and safety protocols. But for the meantime, the Wizards can get a full read on the team they put together in the offseason. There are no mysteries anymore, they have what they have. How good can they be as-constituted, what they need to add at the trade deadline and who is expendable are some questions we could get answers to in the next several weeks.

Kuzma's dunk

There was a big play in this game worth highlighting on its own. Late in the second quarter, Kyle Kuzma came charging down the lane and threw the hammer down on Joel Embiid, one of the biggest players in the NBA and one of the league's best rim-protectors.

Kuzma got every piece of him for a classic poster dunk. This wasn't a late help by Embiid or play where Kuzma caught him off-guard. Embiid got into position, squared up and got demolished, fair and square. Given the player and defender Embiid is, it was the type of play Kuzma will probably always remember. The Wizards forward had 15 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks for the game.

Bryant made progress

Monday seemed to be a step forward for Thomas Bryant as he continues to work his way into game shape and rhythm following a year-long layoff for his ACL recovery. Bryant took the challenge of playing against Embiid head-on and came out hot with nine points in the first half. He even hit a buzzer-beater pull-up jumper to end the first quarter.

Bryant looks quick out there, both up and down the floor and in space. The trademark energy he has always brought is back and it's noticeable. And him being a threat from three-point range is helping the Wizards add space to their offense. Bryant had a season-high 15 points (6-11 FG) and five rebounds in just 16 minutes.

Rotation changes

With the Wizards having all of their players available for the first time, that created a domino effect down the roster. Basically, not everyone is going to be able to play anymore and in this particular game Deni Avdija and Davis Bertans were affected the most. Aaron Holiday is another guy who has spent extended time in the rotation this season, but he had already been bumped from the regular group in recent games. Avdija and Bertans, on the other hand, are used to playing.

Neither guy appeared in the first half and Bertans didn't play at all. It wasn't until there was 2:44 left in the fourth, with the game well out of hand,  that we saw Avdija . Seemingly instead of those two, rookie Corey Kispert saw plenty of run, playing 30 minutes and scoring 11 points. The Wizards' depth as a whole stood out, as they outscored the Sixers' second unit 63-to-27.