With the playoffs weeks away, Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report explained why Joel Embiid makes the Philadelphia 76ers a bigger threat to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs than the Boston Celtics.
“Despite the Celtics sitting closer to the Bucks in the standings and having owned the no. 1 seed for much of the season themselves, Milwaukee should fear the third-seeded Sixers far more.
“No disrespect to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but neither comes close to Joel Embiid in terms of a matchup nightmare. The NBA’s leading scorer this season at 33.4 points per night, Embiid has averaged 31.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.5 blocks, and shot 45.5 percent from three against the Bucks in their last two meetings. While other players crumble against Milwaukee’s No. 2-ranked defense, Embiid has proved capable of picking it apart both with his own versatile scoring and passing ability,” Swartz said.
Swartz then added that Embiid’s play, combined with who the Sixers have playing next to him, makes them a more intimidating threat to the Bucks than the Celtics.
“The Celtics are a fantastic team, but with Embiid looking like arguably the best player in the NBA and a deep, talented roster around him, the Sixers have now become the biggest threat to the Bucks in the East.”
Joel Embiid’s Thoughts on Guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo
After the Sixers defeated the Bucks on March 4, Embiid gave his thoughts on what it was like to guard Antetokounmpo.
“It’s not easy to guard him, but when you’re, I guess, 7-foot-2 and you can move, and you’re also pretty strong, it becomes not easy but becomes a lot easier too because he’s so strong,” Embiid said, per Ky Carlin of SixersWire. “He goes so hard, and it’s kind of like a fullback diving at you basically, and you just got to take it and hope for the best.”
Embiid also admitted that he relishes the challenge of covering the opponent’s best player, much like guarding Anteotkounmpo.
“I like that pressure to guard the best players on the other teams and I thought it did a pretty good job in that fourth quarter,” Embiid said.
Joel Embiid Ahead of Giannis Antetokounmpo in MVP Rankings
On the March 10 edition of NBA.com’s MVP rankings, Michael C. Wright ranked Embiid no. 2 ahead of Antgetokoumnpo, singling out Embiid’s performance against the Bucks on March 4 as proof of why Embiid was ranked as high as he was.
“The signature showing of the trip took place Saturday in Milwaukee, where Embiid scored 31 points to go with 10 assists and six rebounds in the team’s 133-130 comeback victory against Antetokounmpo and the Bucks,” Wright said.
Wright added that Embiid’s performances against the Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves also contributed to his high ranking.
“Two nights later, Embiid produced his 11th 40-point night of the season in a win over Indiana before following with a strong showing against a three-time Kia Defensive Player of the Year.”
Wright’s rankings will update on March 17, which could potentially have Embiid rank no. 1 ahead of Nikola Jokic. On March 16, FanDuel’s latest odds listed Embiid as the odds-on favorite to win the award at -100.