It’s always going to be a tough night at the office for opposing centers when they face off against the Philadelphia 76ers. That’s because no matter how good the defender is on the other side of him, Joel Embiid is one of the best offensive players in the NBA.
And Dallas Mavericks big man JaVale McGee had his work cut out for him on Wednesday night. McGee, who has been in and out of Dallas’ rotation for much of the season, nonetheless did a commendable job on Embiid, limiting the MVP frontrunner to just 25 points and nine rebounds.
After the game, Mavericks head coach praised McGee’s performance while also lauding Embiid’s skill and talent.
“Yeah, I thought he (JaVale McGee) did a good job,” Kidd said, per the Fanatics View YouTube channel. “Unfortunately, Embiid is one of the best players in the world, so the three and then the midrange, you gotta make him put it on the floor, but it’s easier said than done and so I thought JaVale did a good job.”
A 25-point, nine-rebound stat line would be a boon for most players, but not Embiid, who came back after sitting against the Nuggets on Monday night, nursing a sore calf.
Doc Rivers Calls Out Joel Embiid’s Performance Against Suns
Just a week ago, Embiid was on a tear. Over ten games between March 2 and 20, Embiid rampaged to the tune of 36.2 PPG and 9.5 RPG on 61.3% from the field.
Only four other players in basketball history managed to score 30 or more on 50% shooting for ten straight games: Kevin Durant (2014), Shaquille O’Neal (2000), Michael Jordan (1992), and Karl Malone (1990).
For what it’s worth, Jordan, Durant, and O’Neal were all named MVPs in the seasons they managed Embiid’s streak.
But lately, Embiid’s play has fallen back to earth. Chalk it up to his calf soreness, James Harden‘s own injury woes, or late-season fatigue. But over his last four games, Embiid’s numbers are down to 27.8 PPG on 51.5% from the field.
“I thought he was a little sluggish tonight,” Rivers told reporters when asked about his star big man’s performance, per Sports Illustrated. “He was human.”
Again, those stats are remarkable for the average player.
“I would love to be human and have 28, ten, and four, and that was a bad game for Joel’s standards,” Rivers finished. “He sets a standard when you think about it, and that’s pretty awesome in a lot of ways. I thought they trapped a lot. I thought we didn’t handle those very well as a group.”
Embiid’s injury status was thrust into the limelight this week after missing a showdown against Nikola Jokic.
Joel Embiid Claps Back on MVP Race
Monday night’s showdown against the Nuggets projected to be an MVP heavyweight battle between Jokic and Embiid, the two MVP frontrunners.
But after Embiid sat out against the Nuggets with injury, criticism rained down on the Sixers star.
After the Mavs matchup, Embiid explained that he makes health decisions not based on MVP chances, but on his own well-being.
“I don’t care,” Embiid told reporters, per Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire. “Like I said, it’s all about the playoffs. I mean, if one game was going to hurt anybody’s chances, I guess everybody should be out of it. We all have bad games, guys miss matchups, that’s not the first time and it’s not really a matchup about me and Nikola. He’s a great player, an amazing player. Like I always say, back-this-back MVPs, he’s one of the best players in the league and I’m a huge fan.”
The Sixers have one day of rest before taking on the Raptors Friday.