Joel Embiid’s 52-point outing in a must-win game will go down as an all-time great performance

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Joel embiid
Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, left, makes his move to the basket against Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

The Sixers pulled off a critical win in last night’s high-stakes matchup against the second-seeded Boston Celtics. The heart-pounding game stayed close all night, but star Joel Embiid carried the team to victory and all but solidified his case for the MVP award.

The final score was 103-101, with Embiid himself nabbing 52 of those points. The game marked the Sixers’ first and only win against the Celtics in the regular season, with Boston taking the prior three games.

A must-win game for the Sixers

Much of the first half felt in Philadelphia’s control, especially with James Harden performing relatively well in isolation against former Sixer Al Horford. Without Jaylen Brown, the Celtics were forced to make some rapid adjustments on both ends of the court and stretch even further to block off passes to Embiid. While Harden’s shooting was variable in the first quarter, by the end of the first half he’d made 5 of 10 from the field and 3 of 6 from beyond the arc. Still, the veteran guard proved how well he’s struck the balance between scoring and passing when sharing the court with Embiid, nabbing four assists in the first half. 

And with such an important game on the line, it was always going to be Embiid’s show. With 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists in the first half alone, Embiid wasn’t just putting on an MVP-level performance – he was carrying the entire team.

While the first half ended with the Sixers up 53-46, the team’s struggles in transition came to light in the second half. Philadelphia turned the ball over ten times last night, with nine of those coming in the second stanza. At the same time, Boston’s already-lethal three-point shooting became even deadlier – 10 of their 15 threes came in the final two quarters

Paired with a couple late-game fouls on Tyrese Maxey, and a late-game takeover by Boston seemed almost imminent. But miraculously, P.J. Tucker – who has averaged just 0.7 threes per game this season – sank a whopping three shots from deep in just a few minute span. 

Joel Embiid dominated in Sixers vs Celtics

But there’s no question that Embiid’s dominance was what brought the team to victory. With reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart and the Celtics’ top-three defense largely shutting down Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey as passing options, Embiid simply had no choice but to get to the rim as much as possible.

And he did just that – in 39 minutes of play, Embiid put up 52 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 assists, with two blocks to boot. The big man now joins just Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players in history with five or more 50+ point games in their career. The team’s record now sits at 52-27, with just three games remaining in the regular season. They’ll play their final home game tomorrow night against the Miami Heat.