NBA

Sixers need everything from ‘awesome’ Joel Embiid during tough stretch

Joel Embiid 76ers
Joel Embiid
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

A shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers team needed their star and big man Joel Embiid to step up on Monday night against the Boston Celtics — and he did just that.

Last year’s MVP finalist played just like a most valuable player, dropping 41 points on 14-of-27 shooting with 10 rebounds and 5 assists in a 108-103 victory that concluded a drab three-game losing skid.

“He was awesome,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said. “He took his shots. What we talk about with him every day, make or miss, just get your shot. Get the shot you want, and I thought he did that.”

The Sixers have been hit by the COVID-19 and the injury bug in recent weeks. Georges Niang, Andre Drummond and Shake Milton all are sidelined due to the virus while Furkan Korkmaz missed Monday’s game due to a non-COVID illness.

Even Embiid, Danny Green, and Tyrese Maxey were listed as questionable heading into Monday’s matchup as they battled injury issues — though Embiid and Green suited up.

With their reinforcements limited, Embiid, along with Tobias Harris and Seth Curry, took the reins of the Sixers as the latter two combined for 51 points to support the big man.

“I thought Seth [got his shot] as well,” Rivers said of Curry’s 26-point night on 10-of-14 shooting and a perfect 3-of-3 from beyond the arc. “Our execution down the stretch was absolutely perfect. The spacing, I think we got two threes off their spacing out the post was perfect. That was pretty good.”

Embiid played a huge role in that execution down the stretch as he dropped 17 points in the fourth quarter that included a 9-of-10 showing from the free-throw line.

It’s exactly the kind of play the Sixers need from Embiid moving forward as they try to make up ground. They are 5-and-a-half games behind the first-place Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference.

Over his last two games, Embiid has averaged 36.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. That will certainly get the job done.

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