The Philadelphia 76ers (34-17) started a three-game road trip against a banged-up San Antonio Spurs (14-39). Against a tanking team missing three starters due to injury, the Sixers started off slow but eventually took care of business and won by a score of 137-125, marking their first eight-game road winning streak since the 2000-01 season.

Let’s break down the Sixers’ win over the Spurs.

Sixers player notes:

Joel Embiid: 33 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 10-18 FG shooting

Embiid started the game poorly but got really going in the second quarter. Once he started going right at the defense, the points kept coming and coming. He could have had another monster scoring night but instead played just 27 minutes, doing enough to get the Sixers a win while earning some extra rest.

Tyrese Maxey: 25 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 8-15 FG shooting

Maxey stepped right into a pull-up triple on one of his first possessions and kept on scoring as he bounced back from a collection of bad games. He was a scoring machine from all over the court, getting by everyone with his quick step, and led the bench unit in one of its best performances of the season.

James Harden: 16 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, 4-10 FG shooting

Fresh off of being snubbed in All-Star voting, Harden did not have himself a great game. He got Embiid going during a huge second-quarter run and hit a few key shots but otherwise wasn’t super impactful. Still, he did enough to help Philly win and also got himself some rest, playing just 25 minutes.

De’Anthony Melton: 13 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 2 steals, 4-7 FG shooting

Melton’s hot shooting and disruptive defense were very important for the Sixers in this one, as he shot 3-4 from downtown. Especially as they stumbled out of the gates, his rock-solid play was key to eventually stabilizing the Sixers.

Spurs player notes:

Keldon Johnson: 18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 5-11 FG shooting

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Johnson had a big impact for the Spurs and was able to score quite efficiently without Devin Vassell taking some of the pressure off of him. He muscled his way into the paint and gave Tucker (his primary defender) some trouble while making all eight of his free throws.

Jakob Poeltl: 16 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 8-11 FG shooting

Poeltl was very good at crashing the glass and showed some impressive touch on contested layups near the hoop. Although Embiid was able to power his way through him, he made him work for his points on many of his drives by staying upright and getting his hands up.

Malaki Branham: 26 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 11-16 FG shooting

One of three rookies that the Spurs picked in the first round of the 2022 draft, Branham shot the ball very well, created some nice shots for himself and provided some impressive defense. He moved his feet well and guarded several different players. The potential for him to grow into a very good two-way player is definitely there.

Game notes:

1st half

  • The Sixers turned the ball over on their first three possessions and Doc Rivers called a timeout less than 90 seconds into the game. Not great! De’Anthony Melton came to play from the jump, making some big defensive plays and nailing two triples, but none of the other starters did.
  • Embiid started to get going for the Sixers but their play was still pretty sloppy. A well-rounded scoring effort from San Antonio and Johnson’s impressive ability to power past defenders kept the home squad ahead until the bench units came in.
  • Shake Milton and especially Maxey got past whoever stood in their way as the teams played ping pong with the lead to end the first quarter and start the second. Maxey’s quickness with the ball made him very tough to contain, resulting in points for the Sixers in various ways.
  • At one point, this looked like another one of those games where defense was optional (and declined). Each team picked the other apart. Mostly, the Sixers got into the lane and either took an open shot or made the right pass while the Spurs moved the ball around and found open looks regardless of whether Philly was in man or zone defense.
  • Embiid went to work in his second shift of the game, drawing all the shooting fouls and finishing the job from the charity stripe en route to scoring 11 points in roughly two and a half minutes. The Sixers also tightened up on defense, holding San Antonio to just one made shot (a Branham jumper) in that span.
  • The Sixers set a new season-high for points in a single quarter with 47 in the second and led 73-61 at halftime.

2nd half

  • Melton once again started the half strongly with a play where he poked the ball away from Johnson and to Harden, leading to an easy transition score. Embiid scored time after time and found Harden for a wide-open catch-and-shoot triple to push their lead to 14, leading to a San Antonio timeout.
  • The Spurs struggled on defense — it felt like they hardly rotated to the ball to prevent a shot in the paint, especially when Embiid drove — but they stayed somewhat in it on offense by either scoring early or staying in motion without the ball.
  • The Sixers bench once again cooked thanks to Maxey. He got the unit going with some buckets and pushed the lead to 21 points with a dime to Georges Niang, who hit a three. From there, the Sixers kept on scoring to put the game out of reach. Both teams started going deeper into their benches with seven minutes left as Paul Reed and Danuel House Jr. saw the floor.
  • While the Spurs kept the deficit around 10 points thanks to a mini scoring run from Stanley Johnson, the Sixers starters checked back into the game with five minutes left. They helped maintain the sizable lead before once again allowing the bench to ride out the win.
  • The Sixers bench scored a season-best 67 points. Maxey, Milton and Niang combined for 52 points on 17-30 shooting.

Random thoughts:

  • Daryl Morey showing up to the Rights to Ricky Sanchez’s Fly the Process event was very cool. I’m sure he went home with plenty of suggestions for what to do ahead of the trade deadline and probably heard the same one numerous times.
  • The Sixers will probably want to forget this season’s series against the Spurs but at least this game had a better outcome than the previous one.

The Sixers will continue their road trip on Sunday against the New York Knicks.