Joel Embiid has courted a bit of controversy lately after resting in a few key games while also contending for the MVP award in one of the closest races in NBA history. However, as good as individual awards are, the ultimate goal is still to win a championship, and Embiid just made a case for why it’s important for him to get some rest heading into the playoffs.
Any path to the NBA Finals will likely put the Philadelphia 76ers on a collision course with the Boston Celtics, so their final meeting of the season was on every NBA fan’s calendar. Even though the Celtics had a 3-0 series lead heading into the fourth and final game, the Sixers were the ones who delivered the 103-101 victory.
At the heart of the win was Embiid, who had a monster performance with 52 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and two blocks. He shot 20 of 25 from the field and 12 of 13 from the free throw line during the dominant display and had a game-leading plus/minus of +17. There was precious little that the Celtics’ vaunted defense could do against him and he scored at will.
Scoring more than half of your team’s points is impressive on any given night, but it’s even more memorable when you take into account that Embiid plays next to James Harden and Tyrese Maxey who are both elite scorers. Harden had a bit of a tough night shooting, going 7 of 17 overall, but still managed to finish with 20 points, five rebounds and 10 assists. Maxey had a forgettable night with five points on 2 of 8 shooting.
Today’s victory against the Celtics was a reminder that Embiid is a bonafide MVP candidate, though Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo are also both legitimate claimants to the award. If Embiid carries on with this strong play through the playoffs, there’s no reason to believe that the Sixers can’t go all the way to the 2023 NBA Finals.
The Celtics remain the second seed after this latest defeat, but they just got a rude reminder that they’re not invincible. I personally think that one of the Celtics, Bucks or Sixers will win the championship this season, and today showed that it really could be any one of those three teams.
Philadelphia have three games left in their schedule against the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets. They have a mathematical chance of overtaking the Celtics for second, but they’ll need a lot of luck. With the Celtics finishing with a homestand, taking on the Toronto Raptors twice and the Hawks once, it’s unlikely that Boston cede control. That means that Embiid may rest another game or two, but if that keeps him fresh for the postseason, I’m sure Sixers fans won’t mind.