Joel Embiid feels confident about the Philadelphia 76ers‘ chances of winning a title this season — for now, at least.
The team’s star and MVP candidate opened up this week about the challenging stretch the team faced, when they went 4-1 against five contending teams. Embiid said he believes the Sixers can hang with any team, but gave a somewhat tenuous endorsement of the team’s chances.
“It shows you that, not just for now, it shows you that we got a chance,” Embiid said, via the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Sixers Notch Another Big Win
Embiid’s remarks came before the team’s thrilling come-from-behind win over the Portland Trail Blazers on March 10. The Sixers erased a 21-point deficit, winning on Embiid’s fall-away jumper with 1.1 seconds remaining.
After the 120-119 victory, Sixers coach Doc Rivers gave his team credit for continuing to hang with the Blazers through a difficult first half.
“It wasn’t our night until 1.1 seconds, when you think about it,” Rivers said, via ESPN. “We stayed at it. We were looking for everything and just couldn’t get going, man. We looked like we were in mud in the first half on both ends.
“That’s a hell of a win for us because we didn’t have a lot, and you could see it.”
After the win, Embiid joined in sharing praise for the team’s never-give-up approach but also shared some concern that the team once again had to come back from a significant deficit.
“Down 20, guys could have been saying the game is over and we moved on to the next one,” Embiid said, via The Associated Press. “But these guys keep on fighting. But we have to stop putting ourselves in these position.”
The Sixers gave up 71 points to the Blazers in the first half, but made a defensive change in the second half with P.J. Tucker holding down the middle and Embiid guarding the perimeter. Rivers said after the game that it was effective in trapping Blazers guard Damian Lillard.
The win gave the Sixers their seventh win in the last 10 games and pushed their record to 44-22, increasing their hold on the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference and keeping them within striking distance of the Boston Celtics at No. 2
Joel Embiid Remains Hot
While he may not be ready to offer a full-throated endorsement of his team’s title hopes, Embiid has generated some MVP buzz for his torrid stretch over the last month. Over the last 12 games, Embiid has averaged 33.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.
Embiid said he has been putting in work this season, trying to shore up the weakest parts of his game.
“I’m really just working on my game, honestly,” Embiid said, via ESPN. “Seeing what works and what doesn’t. Trying to be aggressive, and getting my guys involved. Like I said, I can be better, I missed a bunch of free throws today, and I had a couple turnovers, especially one down the stretch, so I can always be better.”
Teammate James Harden said he notices how much Embiid has put into his game this season.
“Something that he works on every day,” Harden said. “That’s why he’s MVP of the league this year.”