76ers’ Joel Embiid explains what it would take to be crowned NBA MVP this season


Joel Embiid put the Philadelphia 76ers on his back on Tuesday night. In a game against the Miami Heat in which both teams were extremely short-handed due to the league’s health and safety protocols amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Embiid turned in an all-time performance and lifted Philadelphia to a 137-134 overtime victory. 

The big man hit clutch shot after clutch shot down the stretch, including the jumper that sent the game into overtime and several more in the extra period. When all was said and done, Embiid finished the game with 45 points, 16 rebounds, five steals, four assists and a block. In the process, Embiid made some franchise history as he became the first Sixers player with 45 points, 15 rebounds and five steals in a game. He also became the first Sixer since Charles Barkley to record a 45-point, 15-rebound performance. The 45 points that he dropped were the third-most that he’s ever scored in a game in his career. 

After an underwhelming first half, Embiid clearly decided that he wasn’t going to let the Sixers lose their fourth straight game, and he came out in the second half like a man on a mission. Thirty-five of his 45 points were scored after halftime. The big man even served as Philadelphia’s de facto point guard down the stretch of the game. 

“We needed it tonight,” Embiid said of his monster performance after the game. “We lost three games in a row. Our mentality should always be we should never lose two games in a row, and we lost three in a row. So there was no chance we were going down losing four in a row. Whatever I had to do and whatever my teammates had to do, we did it and we got the win.”

Early this season, Embiid has looked like a legitimate MVP candidate, as a couple of changes have helped to unlock his efficiency. Through 10 games, he sits seventh league-wide in scoring (26.6 points per game), and fifth in rebounding (12.1), while shooting a career high 54 percent from the floor. Despite his strong start, Embiid said that he isn’t focused on individual accolades, but rather team success. 

“The main goal is to win a championship,” Embiid told reporters after the win. “When it comes to individual awards, it can’t happen unless you’re winning games. So the main thing I’m worried about is winning. At the end of the day, if I win, and we win, and we get the first seed, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be in the MVP, Defensive Player of the Year conversations, All-NBA first team, and all that stuff.

“It all goes back to the same thing: Winning,” Embiid added. “The main goal is winning the championship. We’re trying to get ready for what’s to come — the playoffs and that level. So like I said, it all goes back to winning.”  

When it comes to the Sixers, the question has never been about Embiid. When he’s on the floor, they always have an excellent chance of winning, as he’s clearly one of the most dominant two-way players in the entire NBA. The question, at least in the past, has been about his supporting cast. So far this season, the current supporting cast looks to be improved, but it’s really too early to tell. As long as Embiid can stay healthy and continue to play like he did against the Heat on Tuesday night though, Philadelphia will be in the contender conversation. 





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