With most of the chatter surrounding the Philadelphia 76ers this season focusing on the Ben Simmons saga, it might be easy for the national NBA audience to overlook what All-Star big man Joel Embiid has been doing. His latest example of dominant brilliance came in Wednesday’s 123-110 win over the visiting Orlando Magic, during which Embiid tied a career-high with 50 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in just 27 minutes.
In doing so, Embiid joined Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson as the only players in NBA history to score 50 or more points in fewer than 28 minutes — Thompson scored 52 points in 27 minutes in a win over the Chicago Bulls in 2018. Embiid also became the only player to ever score at least 50 points and collect at least 10 rebounds in 27 or fewer minutes.
Embiid was essentially unstoppable from the jump against the Magic frontcourt, scoring 20 points in the first quarter and tallying 47 points entering the fourth. He went 17-for-23 from the field and 15-for-17 from the free throw line (he had more free throw attempts than the entire Orlando team), while also picking up three blocks and two steals on the other end.
“He was unbelievable from the start,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said of Embiid. “I thought he tried to set a tone for us early. He’s really good — just dominant in every way. Every shot was the right shot.”
The 76ers improved to 26-18 with the win, and it’s safe to say that they’d be nowhere near that mark were it not for Embiid’s terrific performance all season. Entering Wednesday night, Embiid was averaging 27.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and a career-high 4.2 assists per game, while shooting a career-best 38 percent from 3-point range and committing a career-low 2.9 turnovers per game.
Embiid has bolstered his MVP case with an absolutely torrid scoring run over the past month. He’s now scored at least 31 points in 13 of his last 15 games — the other two games he scored 23 and 25 — and Philadelphia has gone 11-4 over that stretch while climbing to the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference standings, within striking distance of the top seed.
With Steph Curry, Nikola Jokic and Kevin Durant widely considered the front-runners for MVP halfway through the season, Embiid’s recent tear has certainly placed his name back into the conversation, especially if the Sixers can continue to climb in the standings despite Simmons’ lingering absence.
“One of my goals has always been to be invaluable every single night,” Embiid said after the win over Orlando. “And that’s what I’ve been.”