Game Recap | Embiid Headlines Dominant Win Over Pelicans
Early on, it looked like the 76ers had what it took to impose their will in Friday’s match-up with the New Orleans Pelicans. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, their dominance was an absolute certainty, a fact.
Fueled by an explosive start, the Sixers proved to be the superior team in a battle of current eight seeds from the Eastern and Western Conferences, toppling the Pelicans, 100-82.
The final score didn’t do nearly enough justice to the one-sided nature of Friday’s tilt. The Sixers had established a staggering 23-4 edge midway through the opening quarter, led by as many as 18 points in the second, then blew things open with an 18-0 surge that bridged the third and fourth frames.
The Sixers’ margin ballooned as big as 35 points just minutes into Friday’s final quarter. For a second straight game coinciding with the start of a five-game homestand, the Sixers won wire-to-wire, not once trailing on the scoreboard.
Pitted against fellow All-Star starting center Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid was brilliant, submitting one of the most convincing showings of his burgeoning career. The Sixers’ big man went for 24 points (11-18 fg, 2-4 3fg) and 16 rebounds in just 23 minutes, 53 seconds of action.
Embiid hit his first six shots of the night, pumped out 16 points in the first quarter, and had his 27th double-double in hand by intermission, with 20 points and 10 boards.
Davis, meanwhile, was contained for 14 points on 6 for 19 shooting, and 8 rebounds.
“It’s a pretty impressive box score,” Brown said of Embiid’s performance.
Going toe-to-toe with another highly-touted center like Davis, Embiid came out ready.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” said Embiid. “He’s a really good player.”
Dario Saric was another instrumental factor in the Sixers’ lopsided triumph. He matched Embiid’s game-high total of 24 points (8-11 fg, 4-5 3fg), and came on particularly strong during the Sixers’ 28-11 third period. The Croatian has now reached 20 points in back-to-back games, and double-figures in 32 games in a row.
Helping stir the Sixers’ drink throughout Friday evening was Ben Simmons. The rookie flirted with his sixth triple-double of the season, posting 10 points, 9 boards, and 8 assists. With 3 steals, he was also part of a strong defensive effort that Brown considered crucial to the Sixers’ success.
“So much of everything we did came through our defense,” Brown said.
The Pelicans shot 34.7 percent Friday, marking the third time this campaign the Sixers held an opponent below 35.0 percent shooting. New Orleans was just 8 for 31 from the perimeter, while the Sixers finished with a plus-12 rebounding edge.
Embiid vs Davis
Let’s dive a little bit deeper into Joel Embiid’s third-ever confrontation with fellow All-Star Anthony Davis, shall we?
Embiid’s game totals certainly surpassed those generated by Davis, but upon examining their head-to-head stats Friday, the former’s numbers looked even better.
According to stats.nba.com, Embiid and Davis shared the floor Friday for 15.5 minutes. During that time, the Sixers outscored New Orleans by a staggering margin of 30 points.
When Davis was on the court, Embiid tallied 18 points (8-13 fg, 2-3 3fg), grabbed 11 rebounds, snagged 2 steals, and blocked a shot. Davis, conversely, scored 4 points (2-10 fg, 0-3fg) and hauled in 3 rebounds.
From Friday’s opening toss, Embiid seemed to be locked in.
“When you come into these games, especially when you know he’s one of the guys that you’re compared [to] a lot as far as who’s the best people in the league, you always want to take it to the next level,” said Embiid.
That’s exactly what he did.
Embiid got himself going Friday by rising up over Davis for a pair of threes in the opening minute of regulation. Later in the first quarter, he used a baseline fadeaway to defy another one of Davis’ contests, before beating Davis down the floor for a transition dunk.
Scoring in a variety of ways, while also dominating the glass and protecting the rim, Embiid emerged as an unstoppable force.
“Embiid’s going to be a tough match-up for anyone,” said Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry.
A truth that on Friday New Orleans felt the brunt of first-hand.
The Sixers stormed out of the gates so fast Friday, the game moved by like a blur. First, they were up 8-0, then 14-2, then 23-4. It was hard to stay on top of and keep track of everything that was happening.
One sequence, though, captured the craziness of this stage of the game better than the rest: Ben Simmons steal > transition runout > alley-oop slam capped off by...Joel Embiid...Robert Covington...both?!
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) February 10, 2018
Whose basket it was it? Embiid’s? Covington’s? Split the two points, which was Embiid’s suggestion to Covington?
Well, Friday’s official bookkeepers scored the basket for Embiid. Covington was at peace with the decision.
“As long as the crowd loved it, and we executed, that’s all the really matters,” he said.
“I figured I was open by myself,” Embiid said, recalling how the situation unfolded. “Then I jumped, and I felt somebody next to me.”
The ball already in hand, Embiid had no doubt about what he was going to do with it.
“We shared the dunk,” said Embiid. “[Covington] should have had one point, and I should have had one point.”
Brett Brown viewed the memorable open court double alley-oop highlight as a reward for good team defense.
“You got two young guys who want to make the play,” said Brown. “Both of them go after it, it’s fun.”
“That was confusing,” admitted bystander Dario Saric. “I don’t know how scored it. He must get two assists for one. Everybody was smiling, we were all just enjoying it.”
Brett Brown agrees with the notion that Dario Saric’s potent, productive, steady contributions have flown under the radar, somewhat. Maybe it’s just a matter of the forward now being as consistent as he’s been for about two months.
In assessing Saric’s progress, Brown looks at the Croatian’s rebounding and 3-point shooting more than anything else, especially the latter of these two areas. Since Christmas, Saric has essentially shot the ball as well and almost as frequently from the outside as JJ Redick, one of the game’s premiere marksmen.
Over his last 20 games, Saric has gone 49 for 109 from 3-point territory, good for 45.0 percent. He was 4 for 5 Friday versus New Orleans.
Brown has long maintained that the three-ball is the “passport” to Saric becoming “elite.”
“When he can step up and make some threes and really space the floor...I think he goes to a whole new level,” Brown said. “I thought tonight he was sensational.”
”Coach says my future is as a three-point shooter,” said Saric. “I know how to play. I’ve been working with my coaches after practice. They find time with me to work on my game, and help me improve.”
Serving as the backdrop to Friday’s game at The Center was a day worth of festivities feting all-time Sixers great Bobby Jones. The first player in NBA history to ever be named Sixth Man of the Year, Jones was honored with the unveiling of a statue inspired by his hustling, hard-playing likeness Friday afternoon. The sculpture was the fourth to be placed on Legends Walk at the Sixers’ training complex in Camden. Later in the evening, Jones served as Sixers’ honorary pre-game bell-ringer, and was saluted with a commemorative video that ran during an in-game timeout.
— NBA (@NBA) February 10, 2018
In completing their eighth and final back-to-back set before the All-Star break, the Sixers will welcome to The Center Saturday the new-look LA Clippers. About a week and a half before the NBA trade deadline, the Clips were involved in a stunning deal that sent former No. 1 pick and face-of-the-franchise All-Star Blake Griffin to Detroit. As part of their return in the swap, the Clippers picked up veterans Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, and Boban Marjanovic, plus a 2018 protected first-round pick.