The Philadelphia 76ers took to the road to face off against Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night. Without Joel Embiid, the Sixers struggled to assert themselves, and for much of the game, it looked like they would be blown out.
Here are three observations from Wednesday’s game:
Joel Embiid has no substitute
The reigning MVP was sorely missed last night. Joel Embiid sat out the game against the Pelicans due to illness. New Orleans quickly took advantage of that and capitalized on Embiid‘s absence throughout the game.
Jonas Valanciunas treated Marcus Morris Sr. like a high school freshman in the paint all night. Although he is probably not even a fourth option on offense, his shots around the rim helped New Orleans get out to an early lead. Had Embiid been there, it surely would’ve been a different story.
The Pelican’s center was not the only player who treated driving lanes like a subway turnstile after an Eagles game. Zion Williamson, who is already an effective interior scorer, missed only one shot. He ended up going 11 for 12 from the field.
If the Sixers are going to win any games when Joel Embiid sits, Nick Nurse will have to find a better answer for protecting the rim moving forward.
Maxey can’t do it all by himself
Maxey is having an outstanding season. There’s chatter around the NBA that this will be his first year as an All-Star. Though this may be true, against the Pelicans, his dynamic play was not enough to secure a victory. He dazzled the New Orleans crowd with his array of moves and speed. It just wasn’t enough. Maxey finished with a team-high 33 points.
Tobias Harris, a veteran leader and one of the highest-paid players on the team, scored only 12 points. That’s not going to cut it if the Sixers want to win games without Embiid, especially on the road.
A bright spot is that Robert Covington found his shooting rhythm again. He made all four of his 3-point attempts. That’s nice production from a key reserve player, but Maxey is going to need more help than RoCo in games when Embiid is out.
Free-throw disparity sinks Sixers
When you send your opponent to the free-throw line almost twice as much as you visit the charity stripe, you’re not going to win many games. The Pelicans shot 34 free throws versus the Sixers. The Sixers went to the line only 18 times.
This free-throw attempt statistic magnifies the importance of Joel Embiid’s offensive genius. The Sixers’ most dominant player is always at the top of the NBA category, and that point production was not supplemented against New Orleans.
Not only do Embiid’s free throws put points on the board for Philly, but they also potentially puts opposing players in foul trouble.
Maxey is getting to the rim more this year, earning calls from the refs, who seem to respect his flourishing game. Yet, Maxey can’t do it by himself, as stated earlier.