February 27, 2023
The Sixers were a fraction of a second away from an improbable overtime.
After Jayson Tatum nailed a three-point dagger, the Celtics essentially hit a buzzer beater on Saturday night, leading the Sixers by three with just 0.7 seconds remaining on the clock in the fourth quarter.
A ensuing inbound to Joel Embiid led to the superstar center launching the ball three-fourths down the court, swishing it, throwing the Wells Fargo Center crowd into anarchy for an all-too-brief moment.
It didn't count, but if we're going by the "rule of cool," it definitely should have counted:
DOESN’T COUNT BUT JOEL EMBIID MY GOODNESS. 🔥🔥🔥— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) February 26, 2023
"No medals for valor" certainly, but Embiid was the lone reason the Sixers were even in that game against a superior, better coached squad, a recurring theme of the big fella's tenure in Philadelphia. That sums up everything for this franchise over the last six seasons: Embiid will move heaven and earth to give the team a chance to win, but it's only a matter of time before the surrounding pieces leave the dream of a deep playoff run at just that, a dream.
MVP-caliber play isn't enough with this organization.
Perhaps that's an overreaction to yet another loss to Boston during this era of Sixers basketball, as our own Kyle Neubeck penned on Sunday. Embiid played his best game yet against the Celtics, dropping a 41-12-5 line and dominated former Embiid Stopper™ (and former teammate) Al Horford.
Worries about the inevitability of a postseason loss to these same Celtics aside, Embiid is carrying the Sixers once more, playing even better basketball than he did in his last two MVP runner-up seasons. As the team opened the second half of their season over the weekend, Embiid was a force both offensively and defensively. That's routine, but he's somehow elevated his game to a level previously unseen.
It's an easy call to give Embiid the honor of "who won the week in Philly sports," my running Monday feature about the biggest Philadelphia sports figure over the last seven days.
More on Embiid's play...
Grizzlies guard Ja Morant tweeted that above phrase back in March, after one of the umpteenth times he threw a would-be defender on a poster with a monster slam dunk.
Embiid jumped with him during the Sixers' Thursday night win over Memphis and Morant went viral for all the wrong reasons. Embiid, an three-time All-Defensive team guy, stonewalled him:
WHAT A BLOCK BY JOEL EMBIID 😱— NBA (@NBA) February 24, 2023
Sixers trail by 2 with 0:47 left on TNT! pic.twitter.com/RNi7SYne3V
Be careful who you're jumping against, Ja!
Trailing by 12 at half and six entering the fourth quarter, Embiid's defensive heroics propelled the Sixers to a comeback win. With Embiid's otherworldly scoring, it's easy to forget how good Embiid can be defensively when engaged. The 2023 season is the most focused I've seen him on D in a few years. He's waned on that end of the court as he's increasingly shouldered a scoring load, one the Sixers have to rely on every single night, but moments like this illustrate how damn good he is as a rim protector.
His defensive box plus/minus is the highest it's been since he was a rookie and his offense has jumped multitudes since then. Embiid's two-way prowess has never been more on display.
As I wrote last week, Embiid has the chance to be the first center to win back-to-back scoring title in 47 years, which hasn't been accomplished since Bob McAdoo did so in 1976 with the Buffalo Braves. To put it simply: this is uncharted territory in the post-merger NBA.
Embiid won the scoring title in 2022, the first center to do since Shaquille O'Neal in 2000. Embiid dropped 30.6 per night. No center had averaged that many points per game since Moses Malone in 1982 with 31.1 PPG (via Stathead).
Embiid's been more efficient than ever, too. He's shooting 51.3 percent from the field, the highest mark of his career. His true shooting percentage of 64.1 percent is also a career high. His 33.1 points per game lead the NBA. That's obviously a career high as well.
I had doubts Embiid could improve from his play over the last two years. The idea of him being an MVP has unfortunately gone out the window for Sixers fans. The media will never let him win. Still, Embiid is at the top of his game and the Sixers are the third seed in the East. There will be fatalistic element of following this team until they break through and finally reach the Conference Finals for the first time in 20-plus years, but try to enjoy the ride of watching an all-time talent along the way, Sixers fans.
Who Won the Week 2023 Tally
Joel Embiid: 2
Mac McClung: 1
Haason Reddick: 1
Kenny Gainwell: 1
James Harden: 1
DeVonta Smith: 1
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