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

Milestones keep falling and the hottest team in the NBA keeps winning.

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

He had 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting, seven assists, seven rebounds and two blocks in the Sixers’ eighth straight win.

Tyrese Maxey scored 31 points and Tobias Harris 24 points.

Aaron Nesmith scored a career-high 25 points for the Pacers, who fell to 32-39.

For the second consecutive night, 48-22, the Sixers lost James Harden (injury recovery) and PJ Tucker (left ankle soreness). Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin and Chris Duarte sat out with injuries.

Here are observations from the Sixers’ last victory with goals of 3-0:

Melton is a great replacement starter

The Sixers started De’Anthony Melton and Danuel House Jr. in place of Harden and Tucker. It was House’s third start as a Sixer and first since Nov. 19.

Myles Turner scored Indiana’s first four points and the Sixers struggled early on both ends. Melton and House failed to connect in transition, wasting a fast break opportunity. After House missed a reverse layup attempt, Jordan Nwora made a corner 3-pointer to give the Pacers a 12-4 lead.

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers called a timeout and his team immediately hit Indiana with a 14-0 run. That spurt included triples by Maxey, House and Harris and a coast-to-coast layup by Melton. The Sixers’ defense also improved significantly. House did a solid job of controlling the ball against Turner in the post, forcing a well-contested layoff, and Melton picked TJ McConnell’s pocket twice. The 24-year-old turned the second steal into a buzzer-beating dunk that put the Sixers up 34-24. He’s clearly a nice player on the floor when you’re hoping to get a few good balls for a big, game-changing run.

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

Maxey dangerous everywhere

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

She was exceptionally strong and confident in this role; the third-year guard scored 22 first-half points on 9-11 shooting and was consistent in scoring at all three levels. Maxey’s apparent ability to score from anywhere was reminiscent of his career-high 44 points against the Raptors in late October. He showed tons of variety with lefty lay-ins, hit runners, and running pull-up triangles.

Harris, Shake Milton and Georges Niang also made effective attacks in the Sixers’ 38-point second quarter. However, as expected, the team’s defense weakened when Embiid was on the bench. Paul Reed picked up two quick fouls, leading to Dewayne Dedmon’s first-round pick since the Sixers signed him more than a month ago; The 33-year-old player played just under three minutes of the second quarter. Reed had a swell time in the fourth and finished with 10 points on 5-6 shooting.

Jalen McDaniels returned after missing the previous two games with a right hip contusion. His movement looked cautious at times, but McDaniels benefited on the Sixers’ final possession of the first quarter when the Pacers pinned a Milton-Embiid pick-and-roll and left him free and one layup. McDaniels ended up playing 16 minutes and scored seven points.

Embiid in full command

Embiid was happy to draw double teams and find open shooters all night long in his office.

He had no trouble squeezing free for mid-range jumpers against Turner as well. In the third quarter, Embiid passed Maurice Cheeks for eighth on the Sixers’ all-time scoring list. When the Pacers quite reasonably sent Embiid more aggressive help on the Sixers’ next possession, he threw the ball to Melton on the left wing. Melton unselfishly passed it to Maxey, whose corner three stretched the Sixers’ lead to 15 points.

Given how well Embiid and the Sixers shoot free throws, any significant deficit has to be especially disheartening for opponents who already know they’re inferior and the other team has arguably the best player on the court. The Sixers entered Saturday night with an NBA-best 83.4 free throw percentage. After 10-13 games, Embiid is at 85.5 percent this season.

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

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