Joel Embiid made an MVP statement Tuesday night.
Playing the Boston Celtics in the NBA’s only national TV game of the night, Embiid dropped 52 points on an incredible 20-for-25 shooting in the Philadelphia 76ers’ 103-101 win. He also pulled down 13 rebounds and dished out six assists, three of them setting up P.J. Tucker 3-pointers in the final three minutes of the game.
“There’s so many things that we did wrong, but what we did right was Joel Embiid,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said after the game.
“The MVP race is over,” Rivers continued. “The man just scored half our points in an NBA game. And I’m biased, but the MVP race is over.”
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As Rivers suggested, with just three games left in the regular season, Embiid’s performance against the defending Eastern Conference champs may have also been an exclamation point in what has been a long and frequently contentious MVP debate surrounding him, the Denver Nuggets‘ Nikola Jokic and Milwaukee Bucks‘ Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Embiid has finished as NBA MVP runner-up each of the last two seasons, behind Jokic. Jokic (24.9 points, 11.9 rebounds, 9.9 assists entering Tuesday) and Antetokounmpo (31.1 points, 11.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists), winner of the 2018-19 and 2019-20 MVP awards, are both having fantastic seasons again, but Embiid’s season is undeniably the best of his career. The 76ers star entered Tuesday averaging a league-high 33 points per game, and seems assured of winning the scoring title after his eruption vs. the Celtics.
Pretty much the only negative thing about Tuesday’s game was the ending – the Sixers nearly blew it, giving up five points in the final six seconds and somehow presenting the Celtics with a chance to win the game on the final shot.
“I don’t know what we were doing. We have to be better than that,” Embiid said of the finish.