With a 146-128 win, the Philadelphia 76ers joined the growing list of teams that have already flattened the Washington Wizards. Embiid was hardly the only reason for the drubbing, and Gafford often held his own against the reigning MVP. But the gulf in talent between the two teams looked as wide as the Delaware River, and new Philadelphia coach Nick Nurse had his team’s offense flowing steadily, unencumbered.
It was the second time already the Wizards (1-5) have given up more than 140 points — the first came in their season-opening loss at Indiana.
Kyle Kuzma chalked up the defensive woes to the team’s lack of attention to detail and knowledge about their opponents’ tendencies. Gafford said it’s more about the players holding each other responsible. There are roster limitations, too, of course — the Wizards don’t have many defensive-minded players.
“That really just pretty much comes with the guys on the floor at the time,” Gafford said. “Coaches can help us out, too, when it comes to the schemes and everything, making adjustments. But [it’s] pretty much just us holding each other accountable, being there for each other and not taking plays off.”
The 76ers (5-1) used a 42-point second quarter to take control for good, but Embiid wasn’t finished. He had 48 points, including 29 in the third quarter, and 11 rebounds to lead a seamless offense that peaked at 60 percent shooting as “MVP” chants rained down from a full crowd at Wells Fargo Center. The home team led by 27 early in the fourth.
Philadelphia had no trouble whipping the ball past Washington’s defense to any of its offensive threats. Tobias Harris pitched in 18 points, De’Anthony Melton added a casual 14, and Nicolas Batum lit the Wizards up from the three-point line for 11 points in 17 minutes. Tyrese Maxey, the guard being positioned as Embiid’s homegrown sidekick in the wake of James Harden’s trade, drove his way to 22 points and added 11 assists. What Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said about his team’s performance against the Pacers once again held true: It was an all-you-can-eat buffet.
“I thought our effort was good. It’s just that we made a lot of coverage mistakes,” Unseld said. “And with a team like this, a really talented team, they’re going to make you pay for it.”
Washington, as it did in recent losses to Atlanta and Miami, started strong before its play fell off a cliff — the nosedive just happened earlier this time around.
Gafford and Deni Avdija did well going up against Embiid to start. Avdija was on time with his help, and Gafford was commendably active against the big man as the primary defender; he had three dunks and five blocks in the first nine minutes before checking out with the Wizards leading by one. But the second unit couldn’t keep Embiid at bay — Unseld deployed perhaps his most physical center, 6-foot-6, 235-pound Eugene Omoruyi, in the first quarter — and the 76ers hustled to speed up the pace, which earned them regular trips to the foul line, where they made 32 of 36 attempts.
Kuzma led five Wizards scorers in double figures with 28 points, six rebounds and four assists. Jordan Poole had 23 points and six assists, and Avdija had 16 points, five rebounds and six assists.