By: Kylan Watson
Joel Embiid and Kevin Durant renewed one of the best rivalries in the NBA as the Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns faced off this afternoon. Both players went blow for blow with each other, but it was the Sixers who were able to pull away in this game. Thanks to a scoring explosion from Tyrese Maxey Philly beat Phoenix 112-100.
The Sixers started this game off hot and they were able to take full advantage of a sluggish start by Phoenix to erase an early deficit. The trio of Joel Embiid (26-points and grabbed 11-rebounds), Kelly Oubre Jr. (25-points), and Tyrese Maxey (22-points, and had 10-assists) led them in this contest. They accounted for 73 of the Sixers 112-points. Once again, the addition of Oubre Jr. is proving to be a pivotal move by Daryl Morey and Elton Brand. He once again scored 20-plus points for the fourth time this season. His ability to hit shots and cutting ability has helped the Sixers offense to be one of the most fluid offenses in the league. If he can be this good for the majority of this season, he will be a pivotal part of the postseason run for Philly. Joel Embiid’s scoring ability was needed more tonight so his playmaking did not show up as much but again if he can continue to average seven-to-ten assists per game like he has been doing for the majority of the Sixers game so far this season it will be pivotal in adding more dimensions to Philly’s offensive capabilities. This afternoon the playmaker was Tyrese Maxey who is thriving in his new role as the primary ball handler for Philly. He had a career-high 10-assists and like Embiid if he can continue to get seven-to-10-assists per game it will help him to continue to work the entire floor on offense and avoid getting double or triple teams. Opposing defenses will be scared to put more than one defender on him if they know he can find the open man. Continuing to increase his assists total will be a key part of Maxey’s development as a point-guard and if he can implement that he will more than earn that contract extension and the keys to the franchise after Embiid retires.
Despite the fact Phoenix was missing Devin Booker and Bradley Beal they hung tough throughout this game and made the Sixers earn this victory. They made some late runs in the third and fourth quarters, Kevin Durant led them with 31-points in the contest. However, Philly was able to make things difficult for him on the defensive end. Durant only made nine/20 shots this afternoon and that was thanks to Philly forcing him to take difficult shots with hands in his face and not wide-open shots. The fact that Booker and Beal were missing loomed large in this game as the Sixers were able to key in on Durant and shut down open shots for his teammates. That strategy paid off today for Philly as Phoenix only hit 36% of their shots tonight and if the Sixers can continue to perform like this on the defensive end, they can be one of the best defenses in the league.
The Sixers will now prepare for Jordan Poole and the new-look Washington Wizards on Monday night and then a showdown with the undefeated Boston Celtics on Wednesday night. Philly will need to stay attached to their man and shut down the east opportunities for Poole and the rest of Washington’s shooters. Additionally, they will need to continue to find the best shots on the offensive end. If they can continue their ball movement, they can be one of the most dynamic offenses in the league and should be able to beat Washington on Monday night if they implement these things.