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Joel Embiid goes for 40 points in road win over Bulls

It was all Embiid all afternoon.

NBA: FEB 06 76ers at Bulls Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Well, I hope you watched this game and not the Pro Bowl! The Sixers knocked off the Bulls in Chicago 119-108 to improve to 32-21. As of this writing, they’re fourth in the Eastern Conference and just 1.5 games behind the Heat for the top seed in the East.

The Bulls’ path to victory, especially with All-Star Zach LaVine sidelined with back spasms, was to demolish the Sixers whenever Joel Embiid sat. Doc Rivers tried to hand them a victory by keeping Embiid on the bench a bit too long in the fourth quarter, but once the league’s MVP returned to play, the Sixers solidified their victory. Embiid was his usual dominant self in an 40-point performance and Chicago simply couldn’t out power a Sixers squad that was money from deep (12-24 on threes) regardless of whether the big fella was on the court. This was in spite of DeMar DeRozan continuing on his superhuman run this season, as he put up 45.

Here are a few notes and observations from today’s Sixers win:

- We’re beyond hyperbolic statements. It’s no longer wishful thinking. Right now. February 2022. Joel Embiid looks like the best player on the planet. The ease with which he gets to the basket in the below clip is downright comical:

People from outside of the Sixers Twitter scene/Philly media/etc. harp on how often Embiid’s defenders get called for fouls and claim he has the softest whistle in the league, but I’m going the complete opposite way and claiming he actually doesn’t get to the line as much as he deserves. He shoots as many free throws as he does because he gets fouled every single play. It’s akin to watching Shaquille O’Neal in 2000. He’s so big that fouling is a defender’s only option and it happens with such a great frequency that it’s impossible for referees to call it.

- Tyrese Maxey had a nice little afternoon with a 16-4-6-3 stat line. Watching Tyrese Maxey hit these side-step threes out of pick-n-roll looks is huge for his development. It’s barely February and Maxey is already a different, much improved player than he was at the season’s start. The prospect of Embiid and Maxey crushing these pick-n-roll plays, especially deep into the postseason, is tantalizing regardless of whether James Harden finds himself in Philadelphia by Thursday afternoon.

How do you trade this guy right now? He’s playing the best basketball of his life while the conversation among Sixers fans right now is whether the team would need to include him in a Harden deal. I’m certainly biased, but this does truly feel like something different than when you see baseball people fetishizing prospects over real MLB talent or when fan bases overvalue their own team’s players based on theoretical potential. It’s not theoretical. It’s real. He’s exponentially getting better as a shooter and playmaker before our eyes.

- I was one Joel Embiid assist from hitting on a six-leg same-game parlay. A Sixers win is a Sixers win though!

- I spent my day watching two guys who will land on All-NBA teams this year try to one-up one another on their respective quests to a 50-piece and a victory. Is there much more in life you can ask for? This game had a playoff atmosphere to me where you’re watching two stars trade bucket for bucket all the way into the fourth quarter.

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