3 observations after Embiid posts triple-double in return, Sixers blow out Bulls originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Joel Embiid went right back to business Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center.
In his return from a four-game absence with a right ankle sprain, Embiid recorded his seventh career triple-double and helped the Sixers improve to 23-10 by beating the Bulls.
Embiid posted 31 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists over three quarters in the Sixers’ 110-97 victory. He stretched his franchise-best streak of consecutive 30-point, 10-rebound games to 14. The reigning MVP has scored at least 30 points in 15 straight contests.
h/t @Stathead https://t.co/xVNXVW4aHs
— Sixers Stats (@SixersStats) January 3, 2024
Tyrese Maxey tallied 21 points and Tobias Harris had 20.
De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine soreness), Robert Covington (left knee effusion) and Furkan Korkmaz (illness) were out. Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said pregame that he didn’t expect any player to be sidelined long term.
The 15-20 Bulls were down Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic and Torrey Craig.
The Sixers will next play a home back-to-back on Friday vs. the Knicks and Saturday against the Jazz. Here are observations on their comprehensive win over Chicago:
Sixers’ dream start to 2024
Nurse opened with a lineup of Maxey, Kelly Oubre Jr., Nicolas Batum, Harris and Embiid.
That unit didn’t look like it was starting its first game. The Sixers took a 28-8 lead a little over six minutes into the night when Embiid pulled down a defensive rebound, dribbled ahead, and sunk a “Why not?” three-pointer from the right wing.
The Bulls’ misery was not close to over. They fell to 3 for 18 from the field when Harris blocked a Jevon Carter three attempt. The Sixers started 15 for 19. Through one quarter, six Sixers had made a three-point shot and Chicago was 0 for 10 from long range.
While outlier shooting performances played a major role in the Sixers’ gigantic early advantage, they were also impressive in many other areas. The starters were well-balanced defensively and had almost no issues stopping Chicago. Embiid was nimble and regularly willing to stray from Andre Drummond’s body. He blitzed Coby White on the wing and Patrick Williams missed a contested, late-clock three on one especially strong Sixers possession.
Oubre scored 13 points in the first on 4-for-5 shooting, including an and-one slam created by one of the sneaky cuts along the baseline that have often been productive for him this season.
The Sixers didn’t require anything extraordinary from Embiid as a scorer, but he drained a fadeaway jumper over two Chicago defenders anyway to put the Sixers up 41-12. Embiid’s seven first-quarter points were over four below his NBA-leading average.
Smooth, do-it-all return for Embiid
No aspect of Embiid’s game seemed to be rusty.
In the first period, he notched five of the Sixers’ 13 assists. (Chicago had a mere two assists through 12 minutes.) Among Embiid’s sharp dishes were a feed from the post to Harris inside and a high-velocity cross-court pass that teed up a Patrick Beverley corner three.
Anything that involved Embiid having the ball was promising. One intriguing play the Sixers ran a couple of times for Embiid in the first quarter appeared to feature Maxey setting a down screen for Embiid on the wing. Embiid decided to go seal at the rim instead on one possession and got a bucket there.
The notion of a defense needing to be wary about the Maxey-Embiid tandem in a variety of spots is obviously appealing to the Sixers. Conventional looks like empty-side pick-and-rolls and dribble handoffs will generally be great, but perhaps Nurse can further explore using Maxey as an off-ball screener for Embiid. Nurse presumably remembers how JJ Redick’s screening enhanced the threat of the Embiid-Redick two-man game a few years back.
Embiid entered his usual scoring zone in the second quarter, drilling jumper after jumper over Drummond. He wound up with 22 points on 9-for-14 shooting, eight rebounds and six assists at halftime.
Time for a couple of debuts
Nurse added Jaden Springer to his rotation and the 21-year-old made an immediate impact.
Springer packed several hustle plays into his six first-half minutes. Right away, he stripped the ball from Drummond’s hands as the big man brought down a defensive board, then fed Danuel House Jr. for a dunk. He later sprinted back hard and leapt with both hands extended to block an Ayo Dosunmu layup.
SPRING(ER)ing up for this massive block. ⬆ 🚫 pic.twitter.com/6vamUcZ4Cl
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 3, 2024
Unequivocal garbage time didn’t last quite as long as the Sixers would’ve wanted because of their sloppiness in the third quarter. The Sixers were understandably unfocused and well below the level they’d played at in the first half, leaving Chicago shooters open beyond the arc and missing a few free throws.
The outcome was never in doubt, though, and Embiid reached his triple-double when he assisted a Harris dunk with about a minute left in the third quarter. He got to the 30-point mark by drawing a foul on the Sixers’ last possession of the period and converting at the line.
Two Sixers youngsters made debuts in the fourth quarter. Rookie guard Ricky Council IV checked in for his first NBA appearance and Kenneth Lofton Jr. got warm cheers when he entered for his Sixers debut.
The Bulls’ deep bench players cut into Chicago’s final margin of defeat, but the Sixers’ regulars were vastly superior Tuesday night.