Joel Embiid Destroys Worlds, Tops Lakers

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 115, Los Angeles 109 – Box Score

In what’s becoming a postgame ritual, Joel Embiid was asked after Wednesday night’s win against the Lakers how he would rate his conditioning level. In typical I only say things that go viral fashion, Embiid answered, “I’m at 69 percent.” Well, if what we saw on the Staples Center floor was truly Joel Embiid at 69 percent, the rest of the NBA must be tossing and turning in their sleep, because he already went out and put forth one of the greatest performances in NBA history.

46 points. 15 rebounds. 7 assists. 7 blocks. Those numbers are unparalleled in the 44 years since the NBA began recording blocks. If they had kept a tally in his time, the line reads like what an exceptional night for Wilt Chamberlain might have looked like for an earlier iteration of the Philadelphia basketball franchise.

Like the Stilt, Embiid looks to be in an entire different stratosphere than his competition. The counting stats are like something out of a video game in MyPlayer mode, but the efficiency with which he accrued those totals are what truly made Embiid’s night incredible. He only turned the ball over twice. He knocked down two of his three shots from behind the arc and took just 20 shots from the field to get his 46 points.

For some reason, Lakers head coach Luke Walton repeatedly insisted on having Julius Randle try and defend Embiid one-and-one. I joked Randle looked like the goat in Jurassic Park, bleating plaintively into the night while awaiting the T-rex coming through to rip it to shreds. Embiid’s offensive repertoire (still less than 50 games into his professional career) is truly remarkable. His footwork in the post is honest-to-god Olajuwon-esque. He has the rip-through move to draw a foul on par with that of James Harden or the master of the art Lou Williams (Embiid went 16-19 from the foul line). The big man can face up and silkily knock down the mid-range jumper. He is well over 7 feet tall and PULLED OUT A EURO STEP.

Plus, Embiid might be even more impactful on the defensive end. My lord. What a player. Sign me up for another three years of lottery-bound misery if it means I get to watch another performance like we just saw.

With the Lakers having their own young guys stepping up (Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma were excellent with 26 and 24 points, respectively), Embiid needed a little help, and Ben Simmons was there to answer the call. The most amazing part of Embiid’s night might be that it overshadowed next summer’s Rookie of the Year winner putting up 18 points, 9 rebounds, 10 assists, and 5 steals.

Like Embiid, Simmons did a terrific job taking care of the basketball against the Lakers, only coughing it up a single time on the evening. There were numerous times where he and Embiid played a dominant two-man game, the towering giants literally operating at higher plane than the rest of the competition. Simmons found his teammates all over the court using angles I didn’t learn existed back in my middle school geometry class.

It’s remarkable that Simmons is doing all this without a jumper, limiting himself to the 12 feet around the basket, where even then he isn’t sure what hand to use. We’re basically already looking at an All-Star caliber player who looks like he’s playing with one hand tied back his back. Take a second and imagine a fully-realized version of Ben Simmons might look like on the court. The Sixers have this guy and the one who went off for 46/15/7/7. Thank you, Sam.

Robert Covington had a quiet night by his new standards on the court (12 points on 2-5 from three), but it was a big day for the Sixers starting forward nonetheless. With Covington finally eligible for an extension coming off his incredibly undervalued deal he signed out of the D-league, reports emerged that the team has agreed to a four-year extension with him. The deal will first include a renegotiation of this year’s salary up to $16.7M this season (an additional $15.1M for Covington). Then, the extension will kick in for an additional 4 years at around $45M.

Basically, in return for receiving that extra $15M up front in the largest salary renegotiation ever, Covington agreed to about $4M less than what a max deal in free agency would be for him going forward. This contract is a huge win for Bryan Colangelo, who effectively leveraged his cap space this season to create more for the team in the future, allowing them to sign a max level player in free agency. Having Covington, who is currently shooting 49.5% from three while playing All-NBA caliber defense, on a deal at under $12M per year is going to represent one of the best contracts in the league. Good job by everyone to work something out that benefited all parties involved.

The Sixers are now 8-6 on the season. The West Coast trip is mercifully over and my sleep schedule can hopefully return to what approximates for normal. Philadelphia will next have the Warriors back at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday; I’m sure Embiid and Simmons are looking forward to having another crack at the world champions.


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