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San Antonio vs. Philadelphia, Final Score: Spurs fade in the brilliant light of Embiid, 123-133

Embiid rode his hot midrange jumper and veteran know-how, along with his 60 pound advantage to put a hurting on Wembanyama and the entire San Antonio roster

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Philadelphia 76ers
Rookie of the Year candidate Victor Wembanyama stared down reigning MVP Joel Embiid and the pair produced some dominant stats in the Sixers win
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Reigning MVP Joel Embiid (career-high and Sixer franchise-high 70 points, 18 rebounds, and 5 assists) produced his 20th straight game of 30 or more points, including an astounding 25 in the third, in a supremely dominant effort that garnered his Philadelphia 76ers a decisive win. San Antonio kept pace with the Eastern Conference giant for the first 2.5 quarters by shooting well and not turning the ball over too much, but the visitors had no answer for the white-hot scoring behemoth.

The Sixers (29-13) maintained pace with Boston and Milwaukee atop the East standings, and were led by Embiid who treated the Spurs’ frontline like a grade-school team. Tyrese Maxey also chipped in 18 points and 8 assists. San Antonio fell to 8-35 at the end of its five game roadie, but played an impressive 2+ quarters when it could have been blown out on many occasions throughout the Sixer onslaught.

San Antonio was led by its Rookie of the Year Candidate Victor Wembanyama and his fourth 30-point game this season (33 points and 7 rebounds) and the heady playmaking of Devin Vassell (22 points and 9 assists), as all five starters made it to double-digits. Keldon Johnson sustained a cut on his chin and left the action for the bulk of the middle quarters before returning late in the third.

In the first quarter, Wembanyama and Embiid were showcased at the head of their teams’ offensive attacks, and pleasingly went right at each other. In a quarter where Embiid took more than half of his teams shots, while scoring 70% of the Sixers’ points, San Antonio’s duo of Wembanyama and Vassell poured in ten each.

The second period, as competitive as it was, played out much like the first, with Embiid lithely passing the 30 point mark, while Wembanyama tried to fiercely match his production. San Antonio applied the pressure from behind the arc and in transition, while Philadelphia (well, Embiid) built a decided free throw advantage. Again, foul trouble was the only thing that hindered Wembanyama, and yet, San Antonio encouragingly managed to keep the deficit to within 2-3 possessions for the entire half.

In the third quarter, Maxey showed off his new offensive weaponry to support Embiid and the Sixers pushed San Antonio down double-digits. Wembanyama committed his fourth foul, and the Spurs were left to forge a comeback against someone seemingly bent on matching Kobe Bryant’s 81-point output 18 years ago. The Spurs’ shooting touch faded just enough to allow Philadelphia put the game safely out of reach.

Observations:

  • The Ringer’s Michael Pina laid out his initial All-Star Game rosters today and Wembanyama is reduced to a footnote in a very crowded West roster. (At least Chet Holmgren is not on that list!
  • Those City of BROTHERLY Love jerseys are.... something.
  • Brendan Haywood referred to Wemby pre-game as “The Unicorn in Uniform.” I like this!
  • Devin’s Deeds: Considering his recent shooting slump, a productive use for him may be the Klay Thompson role (or for older Spurs fans, Dale Ellis) of catch-and-shoot magician. In the first half, Sochan found Vassell for a wing three, which removed alot of the work of dribbling himself into a decent look.
  • Tyrese Maxey is a great sample for the Spurs’ young wings. His astronomical growth - on both ends - since 2020 has been something to behold. His bio lists him as 6’2” and 200 lb. (a more explosive Donovan Mitchell?); so we’re not talking about a physical unicorn or alien. He will make his first all-star team this year.
  • During one possession late in the first, Zach Collins bricked a three, followed by a Blake Wesley airball, and Doug McDermott also launched an airball of his own. (All of Collins misses from distance were thudding bricks).
  • VICTOR EASE: It’s old hat for us now, but Wembanyama, late in the first half, took a loose ball, casually brought it up the court, and laid a perfect bounce pass to a streaking Wesley for a layup. Just so easy. On a third quarter possession, he executed a great give-and-go with Sochan - passing a slumbering Embiid to net himself free throws.
  • Sequence of the Game: In the last moments of the first half, Tre Jones stole an entry pass, sped up court, and found a streaking Wesley for an emphatic slam. More importantly, it brought the Spurs within two in what was then a tight contest.
  • Commitment to pacing and sharing along with a pair of Wemby threes helped San Antonio jump out 14-5. The energized combatants put up 30 points together in the opening four minutes! Embiid took many of the SIxers’ shot attempts while feasting on every defender alive to net 24 points! The only thing that stopped Wembanyama was foul trouble, but Vassell put up ten easy points himself to help the Spurs keep pace. While Embiid continued to envelop the surrounding humans, McDermott countered with two threes of his own. San Antonio left one of its best played quarters of the season up 35-34.
  • Three Wembanyama dunks to start the second frame helped his team match the Sixers blow-for-blow. Paul Reed mauled several Spurs to tip home a miss, causing an angry Pop timeout. Julian Champagnie confidently hit a 4-point play. Even after yet another Embiid bucket, Wembanyama posted him up at the other end, and deftly flipped a finger roll casually around the 300-lb MVP. The Spurs went into the break down 58-62.
  • At the start of the third, Wembanyama and Embiid engaged in a game of ‘anything you do, I can do better’ - Embiid stuck a jumper, then Wembanyama beat him down the court for a reverse lay-in. Philadelphis extended its lead behind alternating doses of Embiid and Maxey. Embiid shot past the 50-point mark nearly halfway through the stanza. After Wesley doinked a floater, he took the rebound and found McDermott crosscourt for a three. The bench made a mini-run, but Embiid’s three put San Antonio down 15 heading into the fourth.
  • Wembanyama picked up a soft fifth foul in the opening moments of the fourth. Wembanyama and Vassell were able to carve into the deficit slightly. Upon Embiid’s return midway, Philadelphis resumed funneling its offense through his broad shoulders, and he passed the 60-point mark seconds later. Tre Jones suffered what appeared to be a concerning lower leg injury during a Sixer transition.
  • The 185-pound Wesley managed to level the 290-pound Embiid to the floor on a pick, earning him a Flagrant-1. Despite Embiid’s fireworks, Vassell’s corkscrew layup brought them within nine, but San Antonio would come no closer than that.

For the 76ers fan’s perspective, please visit Liberty Ballers.

The Spurs return home Wednesday night to take on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Oklahoma City Thunder in a nationally televised ESPN game at 8:30 PM CDT.