Joel Embiid declared himself the most unstoppable player in the NBA after his 37 points powered the Philadelphia 76ers to victory over the Boston Celtics.
Embiid made 8-of-17 shots plus a personal-best 20 free throws (on 21 attempts). He added a career-high 22 rebounds to go along with a late key block on Kyrie Irving as the Sixers averted a season sweep by the Celtics with a 118-115 victory on Wednesday night.
Speaking on court after the win, Embiid said: “First of all, I’m glad we got the win. Second of all, this is why I’m the best defensive player in the league. And third of all, I’ve been hearing these [Celtics] guys [say they] can guard me better than anybody else so I had to come out and show that I’m the most unstoppable player in the league.”
Jimmy Butler iced the game with a clutch mid-range jumper with 4.7 seconds remaining and was mobbed by his jubilant team-mates, including a very vocal Embiid.
Jimmy Butler makes a clutch mid-range jump shot to seal victory for the Philadelphia 76ers against the Boston Celtics
“There was a lot of cursing [after Butler’s clinching shot], so I probably won’t say [what was said]”, said Embiid. “He’s a closer. My job is to get us to the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter, [Jimmy is] the closer and he’s going to do his thing. The last three games, it has been fantastic.”
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Embiid’s dominant outing followed a superb performance against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night, where his 40 points led the Sixers to a statement road win against the East’s leading team.
In his last two appearances, the 7ft Cameroonian center has posted a combined 77 points, 37 rebounds, 10 assists, and 26-of-28 shooting from the free throw line against the NBA’s No 1 and No 5 defensive teams (Milwaukee and Boston, respectively).
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The two-time All-Star is now the first player in 76ers history to post at least 35 points, 15 rebounds, and four assists in back-to-back games.
These individual stat lines are impressive but Sixers coach Brett Brown was more keen to highlight his franchise star’s mentality, determination and will to win.
Joel Embiid torched the Boston Celtics for 37 points as he powers the Philadelphia 76ers to a 118-115 win
“We can talk about things, defensive schematics on Kyrie, or you got to do this offensively,” Brown said following the Sixers’ win over the Celtics. “Ultimately, there is a physicality and a mental and physical sort of mindset you have to have to win.”
Boston coach Brad Stevens recognised Embiid’s drive early in the game after the Sixers star forced Celtics center Al Horford into an early foul.
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“Embiid was determined to get to the front of the rim from the get-go,” said Stevens. “He’s a tough guy to guard, especially when he really gets to the rim like that.”
Those comments echoed Brown’s reaction following Sunday’s win in Milwaukee. “The thing that maybe most stood out to me,” said Brown, reflected on Embiid’s 40-point, 15-rebound effort, “was a fierce level of competitiveness that he played with.
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“It was at an ‘A’ level. It was at a playoff level. The physical side of things, throwing his body into things, he just was extremely competitive.”
With the post-season opening in just a few short weeks, the ultra-motivated Embiid is peaking at the perfect time.
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