By Connor Thomas
42 points, 10 rebounds, 21 chances at the line, only 1 turnover. Last night Joel Embiid turned in the 2nd such performance of 40 points and 1 turnover or less by a Philadelphia 76er since the creation of the 3 point line. The only other time a player cleared those marks? Embiid, back in 2019. Though this means the Sixers’ superstar big man has turned in this performance before, the manner in which he filled the stat sheet last night was something that has been long coveted and rarely seen from the 5th year center. Similar to his incredible close out effort in an overtime game against the Miami Heat last week, it seemed every one of Embiid’s 42 points was pivotal to the outcome of the game. Many around the game of basketball, especially in Philadelphia, have theorized that it has become increasingly difficult in today’s NBA to have a post-up big man be a team’s “closer”. But don’t tell that to the 7 footer from Cameroon, because he has proven so far this year that he can close out a game as well as anybody in basketball.
Facing off against a Jason Tatum-less Boston Celtics team, the Sixers did not seem like they would need a close out effort at the end of the 1st quarter, holding a 7 point lead and more impressively holding the Celtics to 38.1% shooting from the floor. Boston came storming back in the 2nd, however, outscoring the Sixers by 10 in that frame to take a 3 point lead into the break, despite 22 first half points from Embiid. Kemba Walker had 17 in the first half in his 2nd night back from injury for the Celtics, but with a minutes restriction still in effect for the recovering Walker, Philly was able to virtually eliminate him in the second half. Walker scored only 2 points the rest of the way, leaving the load to be shouldered largely by Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. The duo contributed 31 second half points, but it was not enough to outduel Embiid in the Sixers. Not only did Joel put up 20 second half points of his own, but in a pivotal 4th quarter that Philadelphia entered trailing by 5 points, he, Ben Simmons, and bench defensive specialist Matisse Thybulle put the clamps on the Celts. Boston scored only 17 in the final quarter, as opposed to 31 from the Sixers. A pivotal part of the game that deserves mentioning was the discrepancy in free throws. The Sixers went to the line 45 times while the Celtics only took 20 trips. Some may look at that discrepancy and point to the referees, but with Embiid alone going to the line (21) more times than the entire Boston team, it speaks more towards his dominance in last night’s contest than anything else.
Though last night’s win was a great moment for Embiid and the Sixers, they will have to face off against the Celtics again on Friday night and try to avoid splitting the 2 game home series. The Sixers have swept both of their 2 game series so far this season, while Boston has split both of theirs. The Sixers moved to 1st place in the East last night as they improved to 10-5, while Boston fell to 3rd place at 8-5