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Joel Embiid’s big production sent a message over the weekend

Were you expecting someone else?

Charlotte Hornets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

After a loss to the bottom-dwelling Houston Rockets last Monday, enthusiasm around this Philadelphia 76ers season was at yet another nadir. The team had dropped to .500, the vibes were abysmal, and the idea that these Sixers could finally get over their second-round playoff hump seemed laughable. Now, I’m not here to tell you that wins over the Los Angeles Lakers and Charlotte Hornets this past weekend mean the Sixers are fully ready to go toe-to-toe with the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, or the rest of the NBA’s elite, but we can at least feel positive about this team again for the time being. As has so often been the case in recent years, the biggest reason for good feelings about these Sixers is Joel Embiid.

Following a 38-point performance against the Lakers in front of a national audience Friday night, Embiid one-upped himself on Sunday with 53 points against the Hornets. Per Stathead, Joel is the first player in the NBA this season to produce multiple 50-point games, the first center to do so in a single season since David Robinson in 1993-94, and the first Sixer with multiple 50-point games since Allen Iverson during the 2004-05 season. He has now scored at least 35 points in four straight games, the longest such streak in the league this season. Over the course of his career, Embiid’s ability to put up these huge performances has been unparalleled among his contemporaries:

For himself, Joel is just happy when these big outings help lead to wins in the standings, as he mentioned last night:

“We won. It sucks when you start to have those type of scoring nights and you lose. I’m just happy that it’s contributing to winning. Every time I score a lot, whether I am scoring a lot or not, especially when I am scoring a lot, at the end of the day, what matters is if it brings us the win, and every single time it seems to bring us the win. I just got to keep trying to be efficient and play through my teammates. Good things happen when you worry about the right things; that’s moving the ball and the ball just finds me.”

From the outside, it definitely seemed like Embiid entered the weekend with a re-focused mentality. After Friday night’s win, Joel spoke about his mindset in coming out of the gate with a 20-point first quarter:

“Try to send a message to my teammates. You hear a lot that I’m actually the best offensive player, the best defensive player, playmaking, leadership — there’s a lot to deal with, but I like the challenge. And I often hear a lot about if I’m not Joel Embiid, the rest of my teammates follow. I’ve heard that quite a bit, so I just wanted to come out and really send a message to them. Show them, ‘Well, here’s me playing hard and obviously scoring the ball, and everybody else has got to follow.’ And they did. So I’ve just got to do it every night.”

As the points piled up throughout the weekend, so too did the praise from teammates and coaches. Even Doc Rivers was surprised at the different ways Joel was able to score the ball on Sunday:

“Then Joel Embiid he literally scored in every way that you can possibly score a basketball tonight. Even the last play was a slot drive and we do that drill everyday, but we do it for the guards. I don’t think we’ve ever done it for the bigs, maybe we have to add that now cause that was terrific.”

With three NBA scoring titles to his name, James Harden knows a thing or two about someone scoring the basketball:

“He was in attack mode for the entire game. He made scoring look easy tonight. I mean he was just in attack mode getting to the basket, and his jumpers were falling. He just had an aggressive night tonight.”

Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford certainly had his hands full trying to scheme up a way to slow down Embiid on Sunday, and spoke about being unable to find the key to doing so:

“He’s [Joel Embiid] terrific. He’s on a roll, right now. He was great the other night against the Lakers, and he came in the game here and he was clever tonight. We were trying to double team him in different spots, and he knew when it was coming. He had a lot of great plays, and he’s a great, great talent.”

Despite what many would deem an underachieving start to the season, Joel remains optimistic about his team’s chances. Here were his thoughts post-game Friday:

“We’ve had a great vibe all season. We might be 13-12 [now 14-12], but it hasn’t changed anything off the court. We’ve got a bunch of great guys, positive energy. Obviously we need to get healthy and we need to go on a run, but that’s how it is every single day, whether we’re on the road, whether we’re at home. We’ve got a bunch of great guys and we just need to keep that going.”

The Sixers are now back up to fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but it’s still fair to wonder about the divide between them and the upper crust of the league. Nevertheless, Embiid thinks the energy has stayed positive, and if he keeps playing like he did over the weekend, this fan base can remain positive as well.

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