Even with Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr back in the lineup, Houston was no match for Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers, who cruised to a 111-91 win last night.
Houston's final lead of the night came off a Jae'Sean Tate layup ... with 9:34 left in the first quarter, when the Rockets were up 5-3. The Sixers sprinted out to a 7-0 run and never looked back, gradually and methodically building up to a 27 point 4th quarter lead.
In their two previous games, the Rockets gave up 130 to the Mavs and 141 to the Wolves. They stink. They have some talented players but they're either not ready to lead a team, or not capable of doing so. Specifically, they're downright terrible defensively. Not only do they rank 30th in the league on defense, per CleaningTheGlass, but it's not even particularly close: Portland (the league's second worst defense) is nearly a point per 100 possessions more "stingy" than the Rockets.
Which was good for the Sixers last night, since they were without most of their players who had skills in dribbling the basketball, with Ben Simmons (personal reasons), Tyrese Maxey (health and safety protocols), Seth Curry (left ankle soreness) and Shake Milton (back contusion) all unavailable. That left the Sixers with point-Furkan and a healthy dose of Joel Embiid to carry them across the finish line.
A couple of years ago, Embiid might not have been up to the task of carrying the offense, and certainly not with the kind of consistency he's had over these last 10 games (32.6 points, 10 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 11.7 free-throw attempts per night). Sure, Embiid's skill level and physicality would have always dominated some of these teams, but to do it so consistently, with almost no help, and with the entire offense running through him on a night in and night out basis requires a level of patience and understanding he didn't have a couple of years ago.