Joel Embiid’s MVP-like Performance Punches Sixers Ticket to Playoffs

CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 06: Philadelphia 76ers Center Joel Embiid (21) waits for the play to set during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls on February 6, 2022 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)

The Sixers pushed their record to 48-30 with four games to play in a 112-108 victory over the Cleveland Cavs. It was a hard-earned victory with the Sixers coming from behind against the 7th place Cavaliers. This officially punched the Sixers’ ticket to the playoffs as they now mathematically cannot finish in the play-in games or below on the season.

Joel Embiid’s Dominance:

Despite originally being listed as questionable with ankle soreness coming into the game, it was clear Joel Embiid had it going. The Sixers had a lackluster start to the game as a team with the Cavs leading 23-21 after the first quarter and 55-49 at halftime. Embiid did his best to keep the team in the game by tallying 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks before the break.

Embiid made an effort to increase his physicality coming out of the half against a Cavs team that was missing Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. The 5-time all-star ended with 44 points, 17 rebounds, and 5 blocks in a dominant performance on both sides of the court. Embiid showed a strong desire to win and was successful in pushing the Sixers to the nail-biting victory. This performance translated to the Sixers’ success and was a strong reminder of why Joel Embiid should not be forgotten in the the MVP race.

Tyrese Maxey Foul Trouble:

One of the early hurdles that the Sixers had to overcome in this matchup was the foul trouble from Tyrese Maxey. The second-year guard picked up his 3rd foul with 3:29 remaining in the first quarter and was forced to sit for the remainder of the first half. Maxey tallied just 3 points in his 8:31 of playtime and also greatly altered the Sixers rotation as a result of this.

A negative effect of this change was that James Harden played a game-high 41 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back in which rest was expected. The 32-year-old currently is 5th in the NBA in minutes per game.

Things changed in the second half when Maxey was able to get back to his regular minutes. It made a massive difference for the Sixers to have another ball-handler on the court and Maxey provided a positive boost in the second half. The Kentucky standout ended with 11 points and 3 assists making a very positive impact on the non-Embiid minutes heading into crunch time.

Sixers Clinch Playoffs:

The bigger takeaway on the game is that the Sixers have officially clinched a spot in the playoffs this season. This should be no surprise given the team’s impressive play over the course of the season but it is a good feeling to have it set in stone. The Sixers are currently slotted as the fourth seed but are still just 2 games out from the top spot. They are currently slated to face the Toronto Raptors, but things could still change before the season officially wraps up.

Doc Rivers mentioned a few weeks ago that the Sixers have a plan in place for when Joel Embiid and James Harden are scheduled to rest, but this has not been put into action yet.

The Sixers have just four games remaining and the next game will take place on Tuesday against the Indiana Pacers. Tonight’s victory also officially makes it the most games that Joel Embiid has played so far in his career.

The Sixers raked up a pair of impressive victories this weekend and gained some momentum back with the season winding down. Putting up a string of impressive performances to end the season could do the team some good heading into the playoffs.

Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire