Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Brewer steals show in Sixers' win over Rockets

Dave Uram
January 22, 2019 - 7:26 am

The 76ers are 2-1 in their daunting 12 game stretch against winning teams after a dominating 121-93 win over the Houston Rockets at Wells Fargo Center.

Joel Embiid led the Sixers with 32 points and 14 rebounds in 26 minutes, sitting most of the fourth quarter. James Harden scored 37 points, but only recorded three assists. He didn't play a second of the fourth quarter on the bench with a towel over his head.

"It was fun," Embiid said. "We beat them 30, so it was really fun for us. I don't think it was fun for them." 

This was a convincing victory for the shorthanded Sixers, their 31st of the season and 20th at home.

Here are my observations.

Drama in South Philadelphia

Fans got their money’s worth with the dramatics that came with this game. With Jimmy Butler not playing due to a mild right wrist sprain, Corey Brewer filled in and was a pest all night, getting in Harden’s grill. The Rockets superstar’s point total doesn’t outweigh the energetic impact Brewer made on a night when the Sixers best defender didn’t play.

"I wanted to be in front of him, stay in front of him and make him shoot over the top because if he is not getting his teammates involved, then we have a chance to win, and that's what happened tonight," Brewer said. 'He only had three assists and that's a job well done." 

It was also chippy between Embiid and Harden, making this the second game in a row the 76ers center found a way to annoy an elite Western Conference player, with the previous one being Saturday against the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook.

Embiid is a superstar in his own right, and it’s good to see he doesn’t get awestruck facing fellow greats. He wants to let them know he’s in their league and can be considered the best player on the floor any given night.

"I love playing against guys that you guys might say that they are better than me just to prove you guys that, no they're not," Embiid said. 

Brett Brown doesn't feel Embiid is just his "just due" in terms of the MVP conversation. For Brown, he's value expands to the growth in leadership Embiid has shown since he first arrived in Philadelphia. 

Embiid's back issue is overblown 

There’s a lot of hullabaloo these days about how the Sixers and Embiid are handling his back tightness. Any criticism towards the organization for letting Embiid play through this back issue is silly. Other than the first half against Indiana last week, Embiid doesn’t appear to be slowed down by this discomfort, which he calls general soreness that is getting better every game. 

"I don't feel like letting my teammates down and I want to fight with them and this stretch is really important for us," Embiid said. 

The 76ers don’t even come close to beating the Rockets Monday if Embiid wasn’t on the floor, and the Sixers won by a landslide. Embiid was a man determined to continue to show the world that he’s a force. People should stop treating him like he’s brittle. Those days appear to be over.

Brown deserves credit for Brewer decision

It wasn’t until Brown’s pregame media session was nearing its conclusion that the Sixers head coach revealed Brewer would start in place of Butler, with the assignment of guarding Harden. At the time, it was surprising because of Brewer’s newness to the Sixers. However, Brown deserves a head nod for making the call, and kudos to Brewer for taking advantage of the opportunity.

Harden might’ve scored a ton of points as he usually does, and Brewer’s fit offensively doesn’t appear to exist, but he fulfilled his intent to be feisty and a pain in the “you know what.” 

"Isn't that what life's all about?," Brown asked. "You get an opportunity and you hope to deliver. He did deliver." 

Brewer instantly became a fan favorite in Philadelphia, hearing the crowd chant his name.

Houston’s game is flawed

I know the Rockets were one game from the NBA Finals last season, and Chris Paul is currently out, but I’m not impressed with Houston at all. Their offense is pretty much jacking three’s, which is no secret, and they lack significant energy. I understand Houston played two overtime games in a row prior to their game at the 76ers, but they were this past Saturday and Wednesday. The Sixers wanted this game more and it showed.

Butler's injury

​The details of Butler's injury are thin, other than it's a mild right wrist sprain. He wasn't on the bench for the game, but Brown confirmed postgame that he was in the building. 

"He was great," Brown said. "He's in the locker room first one to greet the team coming through the door, well and truly in the celebration mixed amongst, as I said, a growing team," Brown said. 

Butler's injury and status are worth keeping an ear out for.