Sixers at Pacers: Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey star in eighth straight win

Milestones keep tumbling and the NBA’s best team keeps winning.

Joel Embiid set a new Sixers franchise record for consecutive games with at least 30 points, surpassing that tally for the ninth straight Saturday night in a 141-121 victory over the Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

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.

On the second night of a back-to-back, the 48-22 Sixers were behind James Harden (recovering from an injury) and PJ Tucker (left ankle pain). Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin and Chris Duarte were out with injuries.

Here are comments on the latest Sixers win from a 3-0 road trip:

Melton a stellar replacement starter

The Sixers started De’Anthony Melton and Danuel House Jr. instead 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 early on on both sides. Melton and House failed to connect during the transition, wasting a chance for a quick escape. After House missed a reverse layup attempt, Jordan Nwora made a corner three-pointer to lift the Pacers to a 12–4 lead.

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers called a timeout and his team immediately hit Indiana with a 14-0 run. That sprint included threes from Maxey, House and Harris, as well as a coast-to-coast Melton layup. The Sixers’ defense also improved significantly. House did a solid job on a possession against Turner at the post, forcing a hard-fought miss, and Melton pocketed TJ McConnell’s twice. The 24-year-old turned the second steal into a buzzing dunk that put the Sixers up 34-24. He’s clearly a nice player to have on the floor if you’re hoping to extend a few good possessions into a big, game-shifting run.

In 34 high-quality minutes, Melton had 14 points, six steals, five assists and five rebounds.

Maxey dangerous everywhere

To open the second quarter, the Sixers used Maxey in Harden’s typical spot alongside four bench players.

He was extremely strong and confident in that role; the third-year guard posted 22 points in the first half on 9-for-11 shooting, scoring smoothly on all three levels. Maxey’s obvious ability to score anywhere was reminiscent of his career-high 44-point performance in late October against the Raptors. He showed tremendous variety with lefty lay-ins, banked runners and smooth pull-up threes.

Harris, Shake Milton and Georges Niang also produced an efficient offense during a 38-point second quarter for the Sixers. However, the team’s defense deteriorated as expected with Embiid on the bench. Paul Reed got two quick offenses, leading to Dewayne Dedmon’s first stint in the rotation since the Sixers signed him over a month ago; the 33-year-old played just under three minutes in the second quarter. Reed had a great time in the fourth, finishing with 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting.

Jalen McDaniels returned after missing the past two games with a right hip contusion. His movement seemed tentative at times, but McDaniels capitalized on the Sixers’ final possession in the first quarter as the Pacers fixed on a Milton-Embiid pick and roll and released him for one and one layup. McDaniels finally went 16 minutes and scored seven points.

Embiid in full command

Embiid was happy to pull double teams and find open shooters all night from his office at the spike.

Also against Turner, he had no trouble shaking loose for mid-range jumpers. In the third quarter, Embiid passed Maurice Cheeks for eighth on the Sixers’ all-time scoring list. When the Pacers reasonably sent more aggressive help to Embiid on the Sixers’ next possession, he swung the ball to Melton on the left wing. Melton selflessly passed it to Maxey, whose corner three extended the Sixers’ lead to 15 points.

Given how well Embiid and the Sixers shoot free throws, any significant deficit should be especially demoralizing for opponents who already know their talent is inferior and the opposing team undoubtedly has the best player on the field. The Sixers entered Saturday night with an NBA-best 83.4 free throw percentage. After a 10-for-13 outing, Embiid is at 85.5 percent this season.

Impressively, the Sixers needed Embiid zero minutes in the fourth quarter in their back-to-back sweep of Charlotte and Indiana. If they beat the Bulls on Monday in Philadelphia, they’ll have their longest winning streak of the season.

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