The Philadelphia 76ers have been rising up the Eastern Conference with eight straight victories, however the streak, regardless of a 48-point efficiency from Joel Embiid, got here to an finish with a 116-111 loss to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday evening.
It was Embiid’s sixth 40-point recreation this season and the thirty second of his profession, transferring him previous Wilt Chamberlain for the second-most such outputs in franchise historical past, trailing solely Allen Iverson. Embiid has an extended method to go to catch A.I., who totaled 76 40-point video games in a Sixers uniform.
The MVP race is tremendous crowded on the prime proper now, and Embiid, who has completed second to Nikola Jokic every of the final two years, is true there within the combine once more. He leads the league in scoring at over 33 an evening. He’s prime 5 in PER and the anchor of what has been a top-five protection. This recreation is simply one other bullet level on the ever-growing MVP resume.
James Harden, who got here in having mixed for 34 assists in his earlier two video games, had one other robust outing with 26 factors and 13 assists, however there wasn’t a lot help from the position gamers. De’Anthony Melton, who’s been excellent during the last month, completed with simply six factors. Georges Niang, who has been a constant 3-point shooter all season (43 p.c), went simply 1 of seven from deep.
As a crew, the Sixers, who register as probably the most correct 3-point taking pictures groups within the league this season, made simply six of 31 3s in Washington. After trailing by as many as 16 within the third quarter, the Sixers trimmed their deficit all the best way to 1, however finally have been solely capable of rating six factors over the ultimate 5 minutes — and three of these got here courtesy of a last-gasp 3 by Embiid when the Sixers have been down six with six seconds to go.
Philadelphia’s late-game offense has been some extent of concern all season. In clutch minutes, categorized as a recreation being inside 5 factors throughout the ultimate 5 minutes, the Sixers entered Tuesday evening with the Twenty fourth-ranked offense within the league. Their protection has been stout in these minutes with the third-best defensive score, and that was true once more on Tuesday as Philly allowed Washington only one area purpose over the ultimate 5 minutes. The Wizards couldn’t generate high quality seems to be down the stretch.
But neither might the Sixers, and that features Embiid, who had a pair of pricey turnovers and a missed free throw on high-leverage possessions. Tyrese Maxey will assist in these conditions as an attacker/shooter towards defenses pressured to shift out of the two-man recreation between Harden and Embiid, however that does not alleviate all concern. Any Harden offense is at all times on the verge of stagnancy. Doc Rivers hasn’t precisely confirmed to be essentially the most inventive offensive architect. And that devolve-into-isos DNA is at all times a menace to pop up on the flawed time.
That’s big-picture stuff. For now, this is only one loss. Nobody goes to get labored up. But it needs to be famous that the Sixers’ win streak did not precisely come towards the stiffest competitors. Five of the wins got here towards sub-.500 opponents: the Pistons, Raptors, Warriors (absent the companies of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins), Hornets and Lakers. Two of the opposite three have been towards the Knicks and Kings. The finest win was towards the Clippers with each Kawhi Leonard and Paul George within the lineup.
Make of that what you’ll. The Sixers needs to be thought of among the many at the very least the second-tier contenders within the East, however there’s context to even this latest stretch of success.