Joel Embiid’s 40-Point Performance Helps Sixers Cruise by Bulls

NBA: APR 09 76ers at Pelicans
NEW ORLEANS, LA – APR 09: New Orleans Pelicans center Willy Hernangomez (9) fouls Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) during a NBA game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Philadelphia 76ers at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA on Apr 09, 2021. (Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire)

The Sixers took on the Chicago Bulls after dropping their previous two games in a Sunday matinee matchup of Eastern Conference heavyweights. The Sixers had not lost back-to-back games since December 15th and 16th, but the Bulls were not an easy target to snap this streak.

There were some late injury changes for both sides, which occurred shortly before tip-off. On the Sixers’ end, Matisse Thybulle was ruled out with shoulder soreness, and Shake Milton remained out with his back injury. Furkan Korkmaz was able to make his return after missing the previous three games with a knee injury. For the Bulls, Zach LaVine was a late scratch with back spasms and was unable to play in this one.

First Half

It was a solid start out of the gates for the Sixers. There were some encouraging signs in the two-man game of Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. Maxey was able to knock down two three-pointers and a mid-range jumper in a similar way that Seth Curry is often used alongside Embiid. Tyrese Maxey continues to knock down jumpers at a high rate, and this growth alongside the Sixers superstar is a huge development when considering his long-term potential.

As has come to be expected, Joel Embiid dazzled early and often in this matchup. He scored 10 points in the first 4 minutes of play and ended the first half playing just 16 minutes. Despite the short amount of time, Embiid tallied 22 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block. Nikola Vucevic was seen working diligently off-ball to attempt to deny Embiid the ball, but it ultimately was not enough to stop the MVP candidate from getting going.

It was DeMar DeRozan who was doing his best to keep the Bulls in this game. The 32-year-old scored 26 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists in the first half, accounting for half of the Bulls’ points scored. This was DeRozan’s highest-scoring margin in a half all season and was necessary to allow the Bulls to hang in this game.

The Sixers were able to keep the Bulls at arm’s length for the entirety of the first half. They jumped out to a 34-26 lead after the first quarter and cruised to a 61-52 lead at halftime.

Second Half

There was a notable change in energy from the Bulls to start the second half. For the most part, the Sixers were able to counter this and quiet the crowd each time a Bulls run began. Joel Embiid went to the bench to end the fourth, and the Bulls were able to cut the deficit slightly at this point. DeRozan continued building off his first-half success and ended the 3rd quarter with 39 points. The Sixers led 89-81, heading into the fourth quarter.

The Sixers got off to a great start to begin the fourth, beginning on a 9-0 run and pushing the lead to 17 points- which marked the largest of the game. Winning the minutes without Embiid has always been an Achilles heel for the Sixers, so it is a very positive sign to be able to continue the team’s success without their superstar.

The Bulls countered this with a run of their own and cut the deficit back to single digits with just over 8 minutes to play. It took until 7:37 for Joel Embiid to check back into the game, with the score being 100-96 at this point. Embiid quickly got deep into his bag and capitalized on a number of midrange and high post-shot creation opportunities. He ended with 40 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks in his 32 minutes of play.

This impressive performance from Embiid, as well as 11 fourth-quarter points from Tobias Harris, drove the Sixers to a 119-108 victory.

Overall Thoughts

There has never been a big man who moves the way Joel Embiid is able to. There has been plenty of talk about how Embiid has modeled his game after guards and perimeter players, and the evidence is clear. It is almost disheartening to watch Nikola Vucevic, who is one of the better centers in the NBA, try his best to lock up the 4-time all-star and have no success whatsoever. The Bulls allowed Embiid to isolate on one side without bringing help defense which proved costly in the long run.

It is important to note that this Bulls team is far from healthy and did not play up to the best of their ability today. Their 48.1% shooting from the field and 26.9% shooting from beyond the arc were less than ideal and certainly played a role in the loss. Regardless, this could have been a tricky game for the Sixers, and it was great to see them take care of business.

The Sixers’ next game will be on Tuesday against the NBA-best Phoenix Suns. This will tip off at 7 PM in the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers now have a record of 32-21 on the season, which will tie them with the Cavs for 4th place in the East. There is still plenty more important games to play, but this was an extremely solid win for Philly.