3 Observations as Embiid Dominates in Win Over Bulls

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The Philadelphia 76ers swept the season series over the Chicago Bulls, defeating them 121-106 in front of the home crowd at Wells Fargo Center on Monday.

Joel Embiid dominated the action, tallying his league-leading 10th 40-point, 10-rebound game this season. He finished the win with 43 points on 15-of-27 shooting from the field to go with 14 rebounds. Tyrese Maxey quietly added in 17 points and four assists.

The Bulls were heavily undermanned. They were without Nikola Vucevic, who was questionable heading into the game before being ruled out with a right hamstring strain. Chicago was also missing Lonzo Ball (left knee meniscus tear), Alex Caruso (right wrist fracture) and Patrick Williams (left wrist ligament tear).

The win moved the Sixers to 40-24 on the season and increased their lead over Chicago in the standings to 1.5 games. Philadelphia is currently second in the Eastern Conference. Up next for the Sixers is a heavily anticipated matchup against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center. Ben Simmons will not be suiting up for Brooklyn, but he reportedly will attend and sit on the Nets' bench. Here are three observations from the win over Chicago:

Embiid easily handles understrength Chicago bigs

The Bulls, with Vucevic out of the lineup, were forced to start Tristan Thompson at center. Embiid feasted on Thompson in two games last season, and he continued to maintain his advantage tonight.

Embiid began the game playing around the three-point line, knocking down one of his two attempts from beyond the arc in the first quarter. He had missed his previous 10 attempts from three-point range over the prior two games, so seeing him hit his first attempt of the game was a positive sign. He then started moving inside and finding a ton of success against both Thompson and Tony Bradley.

Embiid has a clear size advantage over the 6-foot-9 Thompson and he used it to his advantage throughout the night. Chicago did a solid job making things difficult for Embiid in terms of getting positioned in the post, but Embiid's bigger size and physicality proved to be no match.

Embiid scored 19 points in the first half, but he really heated up in the third quarter. He punished Thompson, scoring 19 points in the third quarter alone while helping the Sixers outscore Chicago 29-24 in the quarter. He continued his dominance into the fourth quarter, scoring his 40th point on this monstrous slam dunk after clearing Thompson out of his way in the post.

Embiid was a bit quiet for his standards over the past few games, but he came back and dominated against Chicago, playing the key role in helping get the Sixers the win. He also was excellent defensively, finishing with two steals and three blocks. The big man is now 11-0 in his career against the Bulls.

DeAndre Jordan made his first appearance in a Sixers uniform. Paul Millsap missed the game due to personal reasons, which left the door wide open for Jordan to get his first opportunity to earn the backup center minutes. Jordan put together a solid performance, finishing with two points, three rebounds (two on the offensive glass) and two assists in 10 minutes.

Harden's all-around night

James Harden missed the loss to the Miami Heat due to left hamstring management, but he came back against Chicago and did not miss a beat. He put together a solid all-around game despite his shot not falling.

He played a big role in the turning point of the game, a 19-7 Sixers run in the final 3:14 of the first quarter that gave the team a lead they would never relinquish. He has developed a nice chemistry with Georges Niang over the last couple games, and it showed in this run. He assisted on a pair of Niang threes, following it up with his patented step-back three.

Niang finished the game with 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting from three-point range to go with three rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes off the bench. He has proven to be a great addition to the Sixers' roster and is a perfect fit playing next to Harden due to his quick trigger from three-point range. He has benefited a lot early on from getting more open threes due to the gravity created from playing with the Harden-Embiid duo.

Harden's shot was not falling. He shot the ball just 5-of-15 from the field, and he made only one of his five attempts from beyond the arc. Despite that, he nearly recorded another triple-double. He finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and 14 assists. The Sixers dished out 29 assists as a team on 41 made shots.

The Sixers also shot the ball well from three-point range in the win against Chicago, connecting on 40.0 percent of their 30 attempts from beyond the arc. The team has played with a quicker pace and taken more threes since Harden made his debut with Philadelphia.

Head coach Doc Rivers tweaked the rotations to further maximize the team's abilities surrounding Harden. Furkan Korkmaz, who has struggled mightily over the past couple months, seemingly lost his rotation spot. Rivers went with Shake Milton as the second wing player off the bench behind Danny Green (who left the game in the first half with a finger laceration). He then went deeper into the rotation, giving Isaiah Joe 11 minutes off the bench against Chicago. Korkmaz did not play a single minute.

Matisse Thybulle's expanding chemistry with Harden

Harden showcased his connection with Matisse Thybulle, hitting him on cuts to the rim multiple times throughout the game including the play seen below.

If Thybulle is to be a semi-productive offensive player for the Sixers, he is going to have to continue to cut hard to the basket like he did against Chicago. Harden has the vision to find him when he cuts, making for a solid offensive combination and a good way to keep Thybulle involved offensively.

One of the more long-lasting potential impacts from the win over Chicago was the budding connection between Thybulle and Harden. Thybulle has struggled to develop on the offensive end, but his cutting has been one area he has put a ton of work in throughout this season. Playing with Harden should help further unlock his abilities as a cutter.

Thybulle put together one of his better offensive performances this season. He scored 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting, including making his lone attempt from three-point range. Thybulle's defense will be vastly important for the Sixers in the playoffs, but arguably more important will be whether or not he can be a non-zero player on offense.

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