Tim BontempsESPN5 minutes to read
“We did a lot of things wrong, but what we did right was Joel Embiid,” Rivers said.
“The MVP race is over.”
There are still five days left in the NBA regular season. But after watching Embiid surgically dismantle the Celtics, finishing with 52 points in a ridiculous 20-25 performance in a 103-101 victory in Philadelphia, it’s hard to blame Rivers for getting a little ahead of himself.
“Joel has to win it,” said Sixers guard James Harden, who scored 20 points and 10 assists in 40 minutes. “He’s been in contention for that the last few years. He led the league in scoring last year. Looks like he’s going to lead the league in scoring this year. We’re the third seed in the East. He’s been consistent all year.”
Embiid was constantly on fire for the 38 minutes, 37 seconds he was on the court, doing whatever he wanted against a Celtics who came into the contest having won the first three meetings between the two teams, and he was regularly sporting a No. 76 C. Last few years.
On Tuesday, however, Boston had no answer for Embiid’s dominance.
“I think the whole league is trying to figure that out right now,” Celtics guard Derek White said when asked about how to stop Embiid. “So if you have any ideas, I think every other team in the NBA would like to know.”
Since those teams could meet in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Celtics would like to get a little more ideas — although getting both Jaylen Brown (back) and Robert Williams III (knee) back on the field would help.
Embiid’s pitching was one for the history books, as he became the first player in the shot clock era to score more than half of his team’s points and shoot 80% from the field, also joining Wilt Chamberlain as the only player to score at least 50 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists during his career. Shooting 80% from the field.
And Embiid has done so while getting a lot of attention coming his way. According to ESPN Stats & Information’s player-tracking metrics, Embiid has double teamed 13 times, shot Philadelphia 9-for-11 and scored 23 points on those possessions. Meanwhile, Embiid was an absurd 10-for-13 on contested field goal attempts.
“When he’s going that way, no one can stop him,” said 76ers forward P.J. Tucker, who hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help Philadelphia finish the game.
Boston certainly couldn’t stop Embiid, putting up a rather dramatic closing argument — on national television, no less — in an MVP race that, as ESPN’s latest poll showed last week, is the closest it gets between Embiid and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. Like any center in the history of the NBA.
When asked about Rivers and Harden’s comments, Embiid couldn’t help but smile.
“Maybe they’re right,” Embiid said from the podium, laughing from the room. “But we got bigger targets.”
Those bigger goals, of course, extend beyond the second round of the playoffs, something Embiid hasn’t done in his NBA career and something that may require beating Boston in a best-of-seven series next month.
That’s why Embiid focused on how Philadelphia almost allowed Boston to pull off what could have been an absolutely incredible comeback from down seven points with less than 10 seconds left – Jayson Tatum’s point at the buzzer was just off the go. for overtime.
Embiid said: “We understand we have a chance, but it won’t be easy. Tonight, for me, was disappointing because we found so many ways to lose the game, and that’s on all of us.
“I’m a part of it. I could have been better. You know, I had a couple of stupid plays… I could have been better, and we could have been better as a team. Like I said, we have bigger goals in mind, but we have to be better than that “.
Even after the late-game crash, there were plenty of issues for the 76ers. Therese Maxe’s season-long struggles continued against Boston, as he finished 2-for-8 from the field, with four turnovers compared to one pass, and is now 9-for-32 in his past three games against the Celtics. .
As a team, the 76ers not named Embiid shot 19-for-53 (35.8%)—a number that drops to 15-for-49 (30.6%) when you remove Tucker’s 4-for-5 performance from the equation.
The 76ers allowed Boston to grab 13 offensive rebounds – which led to 13 more shots – and couldn’t create a tiebreaker in a game that Brown and Williams missed.
In the end, though, it didn’t matter, thanks to an outstanding performance from Embiid. And while he and the 76ers looked forward to a possible showdown with Boston in the playoffs, the ugly nature of the win didn’t take away from the satisfaction of avoiding a season-wide sweep at the hands of one of their biggest rivals.
“I mean, this year we struggled against them, and obviously we were down 0-3,” Embiid said. “So it was needed tonight. A win is a win. It doesn’t matter what we did wrong there. Like I said, we found ways to basically lose that game, but a win is a win – in particular going into the playoffs, and if they end up with the second seed, they might We see them in the second round, if we get there.
“You have to be prepared for every scenario. I just wanted to know where we are, where I am, and where we are as a team. I think you know, if we can right a lot of wrong that was made, we’ve got a good shot.”
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