Joel Embiid got off to a frustrating start this season, as he dealt with a knee injury and a bout with COVID-19 that forced him to the sidelines for 10 of the Philadelphia 76ers‘ first 20 games. But when he has been on the court this season, Embiid has been terrific, especially over the last few weeks.
On Monday night, Embiid kept things going. He took over yet another game, going for 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the Sixers’ comfortable 111-91 victory against the lowly Houston Rockets. Thanks to Embiid, the Sixers extended their winning streak to a season-long seven games, and improved to 23-16. They’re now up to fifth place in the Eastern Conference, and are within striking distance of the first-place Bulls.
But back to Embiid. He’s scored 30-plus points in all seven games of this hot streak, which is not only a personal best, but has put him on an exclusive list with Wilt Chamberlain and Allen Iverson as the only Sixers players to have that many 30-point games in a row. Chamberlain and Iverson are tied for the record with eight, which Embiid has a chance to match on Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets. Any time you’re in the record books alongside those two Hall of Famers, you know you’re doing something right.
Few teams have anyone capable of dealing with Embiid around the basket, and the Rockets certainly aren’t one of them. Embiid just did whatever he wanted against Daniel Theis and Christian Wood early on, racking up 17 first-quarter points. Neither he nor the Sixers looked back after that.
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But the most impressive thing about Embiid is that he doesn’t just overpower people. He has an abundance of skill, which he shows off with a variety of jumpers — pull-up, turnaround, step-back, whatever you need — finger rolls and smart passes against double-teams. Just look at this play from the middle of the first quarter, as he brings the ball up the floor, goes behind his back, crosses over and pulls up for a jumper. Unguardable.
Earlier this week, our own Michael Kaskey-Blomain wrote about how Embiid has regained his MVP form. While his disjointed start to the season makes it unlikely that he’ll win that award, his stellar run is another reminder of his place in the league’s hierarchy.