Joel Embiid earned plenty of praise for his utter dismantling of DeAndre Jordan, Willie Reed a.k.a. What’s His Name and the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night. As it turned out, though, JoJo was just getting warmed up for what would be his real Staples Center showcase — and the surest sign yet that the Philadelphia 76ers, young and odd and all of a sudden as they feel — are very real, and potentially brilliant, and already pretty damn terrifying. [restrict]
A pair of off-days in Los Angeles has felled an awful lot of giants over the years, but “The Process” proceeded unencumbered by any Hollywood haze. Embiid absolutely tortured the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, annihilating Brook Lopez, Andrew Bogut, Julius Randle and any other poor soul in forum blue and gold who happened to wander into the blast radius.
The stat line beggars belief: 46 points on 14-for-20 shooting (including 2-for-3 from 3-point land) and a 16-for-19 mark from the free-throw line, 15 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks in 34 minutes and 29 seconds of incineration. The points, assists and blocks all represented career highs; the rebounds were one off the high-water mark he set Monday against the Clips.
It’s the most any Sixer has scored in a game since Allen Iverson, nearly 11 years ago. It had been 35 years since an NBA player had gone for 40 with seven dimes and seven swats. No player since the NBA started counting blocks in in 1973 had ever put up 45-15-7-7 before Embiid did it on Wednesday.
And the damnedest thing was, the Sixers needed every last erg of Embiid’s excellence, because the Lakers refused to break.
L.A. just kept coming, taking a 101-100 lead on a Randle free throw with 4:19 to go in regulation. So Philly did what has now, after a couple of years lost to injury and frustration, begun to come naturally: throw the ball to No. 21 and let him go to work.
Embiid’s series of fakes shook Randle out of position, allowing him to step through for an and-one layup that put the Sixers back on top, 103-101.
They’d never trail again, pulling away behind timely shot-making from Embiid, Ben Simmons and about-to-be-very-wealthy swingman Robert Covington to put the finishing touches on a 115-109 victory that left superstar comedian and Philadelphia native Kevin Hart ranting and raving like he was on an episode of The Rights to Ricky Sanchez:
Embiid, for his part, wanted to make sure we knew that he believes the best is yet to come, because he doesn’t yet feel like he’s in peak condition after being limited this preseason coming back from knee surgery. If he had to put a percentage on his healthy, Joel would have to say … [/restrict]