76ers struggle again from 21 down, flip to ‘MVP’ Joel Embiid to ship win
PHILADELPHIA — When Joel Embiid caught the ball with 7 seconds to go in Friday night time’s recreation at Wells Fargo Center between his Philadelphia 76ers and the Portland Trail Blazers, he had one factor on his thoughts: Get to his favourite spot on the ground — the free throw line space — and get off a clear shot.
“Once I got there,” Embiid would say later, “I just knew I had to make it.”
He did not disappoint.
Embiid drained a fallaway jumper with 1.1 seconds to go — a bucket that gave Philadelphia its first lead of the whole contest — and lifted the 76ers to an exhilarating 120-119 win over Portland in entrance of a raucous sellout crowd of 21,001.
The win, Philadelphia’s fifth in six video games for the reason that calendar flipped to March, got here after the 76ers (44-22) have been dominated by the Trail Blazers (31-36), who led by as many as 21 and by no means have been even tied with Philadelphia till halfway via the fourth quarter.
“It wasn’t our night until 1.1 seconds, when you think about it,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers mentioned. “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 as a result of we did not have loads, and you may see it.”
Philadelphia certainly didn’t have anything in the first half, when they allowed the Blazers — and, in particular, Anfernee Simons, who finished with 34 points and went 8-for-12 from 3-point range — to do whatever they wanted.
Things began to turn around in the second half, though, and Philadelphia quickly began to narrow the gap, setting up Embiid’s heroics.
“Defense,” said James Harden, who had 19 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists, when asked what changed in the second half. “We received some stops. We settled into the sport and received stops once we wanted to. Not the prettiest win, however we’ll take it.”
Portland, meanwhile, saw a golden opportunity to move up the Western Conference standings slip through its fingers. The Blazers are now in 13th place in the West by themselves, and are two losses back of a play-in tournament spot.
“It was an excellent efficiency,” Portland star Damian Lillard said. “We performed rather well on each ends of the ground. The recreation felt good, simply how we performed on each side. We have been on a string defensively. Our presence on the ball. Our presence within the paint, and we gave ourselves a very good probability to win the sport.
“They just made a big-time shot from a big-time player.”
It wasn’t all the time clear that was going to occur, although. After Philadelphia received the ball again on a Lillard turnover with 20 seconds to go and with the shot clock off, Rivers initially selected to not name timeout and let his gamers run one thing.
But after Embiid received into an isolation on the fitting wing and appeared to stumble, Rivers known as timeout and drew up a brand new play.
“It was a disaster,” Rivers mentioned with fun, when requested why he known as timeout. “That’s what I didn’t like. I actually liked it visually. I saw us coming down the floor and I loved how it looked, the spacing, and when he bobbled the ball and crumbled, I knew we had to get a timeout, and then we got a set.”
The play Rivers initially drew up was for Embiid to both execute a dribble handoff with Harden, or pretend it and assault the protection himself. But Rivers credited Harden for making a wise minimize away from Embiid — clearing the area Embiid wanted to function — as soon as Embiid caught the ball in a greater area than the 76ers anticipated he’d have the ability to.
And that area, the fitting elbow, was one Embiid spent the whole season planning to make the most of in moments identical to this.
In the previous, Embiid would’ve gone into the put up — and, in consequence, given groups a neater alternative to double-team him. He mentioned this was a chief instance of precisely why he did that work in these areas of the court docket this summer time.
“Yeah, that’s the perfect spot, honestly, especially from my previous years,” Embiid mentioned. “I’ve had a couple of opportunities of game winners and stuff and we kept trying to post. It’s easy to double and there’s not enough space. But when you get enough in those positions at the nail or the top of the key, the court is wide open because, most of the time, guys don’t want to give up 3s.
“So that is been figuring out fairly nicely.”
It certainly worked out well for the 76ers Friday night, as Embiid had his latest huge game of the season. He now has 23 games with 35 or more points this season — tying Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-2000 as the most by a center since then. The only other center to have that many since the NBA-ABA merger is Moses Malone, who had 25 in 1981-82.
Both players won the league’s MVP award that season.
“I’m actually simply engaged on my recreation, truthfully,” Embiid said when asked about his recent run of form. “Seeing what works and what would not. Trying to be aggressive, and getting my guys concerned. Like I mentioned, I could be higher, I missed a bunch of free throws at this time, and I had a pair turnovers, particularly one down the stretch, so I can all the time be higher.”
Harden, though, had a more succinct explanation for Embiid’s ability to take over down the stretch and carry Philadelphia to the win.
“Something that he works on day by day,” Harden said. “That’s why he is MVP of the league this 12 months.”