Nick Nurse praises Joel Embiid’s efforts after dominant home debut

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid reacts after his basket and a foul called against Portland Trail Blazers’ Malcolm Brogdon during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

In the Philadelphia 76ers‘ home opener, which took place Sunday night, Joel Embiid put on a dominant performance against the Portland Trail Blazers despite his questionable status ahead of the game.

With 35 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and six blocks, it was one of the most complete outings from Joel Embiid that we’ve seen for some time. Embiid’s Sunday night performance was a far cry from his season debut in Milwaukee, where he looked out of fatigued and out of sorts for the majority of the night.

Setting the tone for the Sixers Sunday night, much of the discussion postgame was about the impact left by the league’s reigning MVP. The team’s new head coach, Nick Nurse, had much to say about what went right, and what’s been going right for Embiid to start the season.

Nick Nurse praises Joel Embiid’s efforts

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Nick Nurse looks on during the NBA basketball team’s practice on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023, in Fort Collins, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

When speaking to the media following the blowout, and sang the praises of Embiid’s efforts on both sides after first clarifying his questionable status ahead of game time. On what to expect on back-to-backs for the rest of the season, Nurse said,

“I think that, you know, the questionable thing is really just like it’s probably going to always be like that on a back-to-back just to make sure you know where we’re at and all that stuff.

After clarifying that, which will certainly be forgotten in an instant once Embiid is considered “questionable” ahead of another game, Nurse spoke on Embiid’s domination, making sure to focus on his defensive impact before anything else:

But, ya know, he was super dominating. I think that the part, all of it’s really impressive, but the part I’m loving is he is protecting that rim, and he’s got people wondering what’s going to happen. He’s taking swings at him. He’s getting a lot of them. He’s probably getting credit for all the ones that they’re marking them down for all those kinds of things.” Nurse continued, “That’s where defense kind of starts; if you can protect the rim really well, you’re gonna have a good chance of having a good defense.”

It wasn’t just Embiid’s defense, however, that impressed, nor his scoring, which, as the league’s scoring champ over the past two seasons, has become an expectation, but it was his ability to create for his teammates as well that stood out.

Nurse was asked about Embiid’s work as a facilitator. Over three games this season, the reigning MVP is averaging seven assists per game, and over his last two games, Embiid has looked his best as a playmaker. Speaking on what he saw from Joel’s playmaking ability, Nurse praised both his star and the supporting cast, who have undoubtedly made life easier on Embiid.

“Yeah, first of all, probably just mindset he’s I think he I think he’s really reading stuff well, he’s he understands where we’re where things are coming from and also, you know, give the other guys credit.” Nurse went on to say, “They’re either they’re, they’re cutting. I’m most pleased with the cuts to the rim, right, because again, if you’re gonna get a few of those, and that’s going to open up some real wide open catching shoots after that, but I think he’s, again, that’s part of what he’s trying to do. As a player, you know, right now.”

It’s been a fantastic start to the season for Embiid, and while the question remains if he can produce like this come the postseason, the early signs are nothing but encouraging. Time will tell, but the Nick Nurse-Joel Embiid marriage is off to a great start so far.