Milestones keep falling and the NBA’s hottest team keeps winning.
joel Embiid set a new Sixers franchise record for consecutive games with at least 30 points and surpassed that number for the ninth straight season in a 141-121 win over the Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Saturday night.
He had 31 points on 10-for-15 shooting, seven assists, seven rebounds and two blocks in the Sixers’ eighth consecutive win.
Tyrese Maxey scored 31 points and Tobias Harris 24.
Aaron Nesmith posted a career-high 25 points for the Pacers, who fell to 32-39.
For the second night of a back-to-back duel, the 48-22 Sixers trailed with James Harden (rehab from injury) and PJ Tucker (left ankle pain). Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin and Chris Duarte sat out injured.
Here are observations on the most recent Sixers win of a 3-0 road trip:
Melton an excellent backup starter
The Sixers started De’Anthony Melton and Daniel House Jr. in place of Harden and Tucker. It was House’s third start as a sixer and his first since November 19.
Myles Turner scored Indiana’s first four points and the Sixers struggled on both ends early on. Melton and House failed to connect in the transition, wasting a fastbreak opportunity. After House missed a reverse layup attempt, Jordan Nwora made a corner three-pointer to put the Pacers to a 12-4 lead.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers called a timeout and his team immediately met Indiana with a 14-0 run. This spurt included threes by Maxey, House and Harris, and a coast-to-coast Melton layup. The Sixers’ defense also improved significantly. House did a solid job on possession against Turner at the post, forcing a well-contested miss, and Melton grabbed TJ McConnell’s pocket twice. The 24-year-old turned the second steal into a bombastic dunk that gave the Sixers a 34-24 lead. He’s clearly a nice player to have on the court if you’re hoping to turn a few good possessions into a big, game-changing run.
In 34 quality minutes, Melton had 14 points, six steals, five assists and five rebounds.
Maxey is dangerous everywhere
To open the second quarter, the Sixers used Maxey in Harden’s typical spot alongside four benchers.
He was exceptionally strong and confident in the role; The third-year guard scored 22 points on 9-for-11 shooting in the first half and scored smoothly on all three levels. Maxey’s apparent ability to score from anywhere was reminiscent of his career-best 44 points against the Raptors in late October. He showed plenty of variety with left-handed lay-ins, banked-in runners, and fluid pull-up threes.
Harris, Shake Milton and Georges Niang also produced an efficient offense in the second quarter with 38 points for the Sixers. However, the team’s defense predictably weakened with Embiid on the bench. Paul Reed got two quick fouls, leading to Dewayne Dedmon’s first stint in the rotation since the Sixers signed him over a month ago; The 33-year-old played almost three minutes in the second quarter. Reed had a great time in the fourth, finishing with 10 points on 5-on-6 shooting.
Jalen McDaniels returned after missing the last two games with a bruised right hip. His movement looked timid at times, but McDaniels capitalized on the Sixers’ last ball possession in the first quarter when the Pacers locked on to a Milton-Embiid pick-and-roll, freeing him for an and-one layup. McDaniels eventually went 16 minutes and scored seven points.
Embiid under full control
Embiid was happy to pull double teams from his office on the Nagel and find open shooters throughout the night.
He also had no trouble breaking free for middle-class jumpers against Turner. In the third quarter, Embiid moved past Maurice Cheeks to become eighth on the Sixers all-time goalscoring list. When the Pacers sent more aggressive help to Embiid the next time the Sixers had possession, he swung the ball to Melton on the left wing. Melton selflessly moved on to Maxey, whose third corner extended the Sixers’ lead to 15 points.
Given how well Embiid and the Sixers shoot free throws, any significant deficit must be especially demoralizing for opponents who already know their talent is undermatched and the other team undoubtedly has the best player on the court. The Sixers went into action Saturday night with an NBA-best free throw percentage of 83.4. After a 10-on-13 game, Embiid is at 85.5 percent this season.
Impressively, the Sixers needed Embiid for zero minutes in the fourth quarter in their Charlotte-Indiana encounter. If they beat the Bulls in Philadelphia on Monday, they will have their longest winning streak of the season.