A “monstrous” first half performance has reaffirmed Philadelphia star Joel Embiid’s MVP credentials but his showing wasn’t enough to help the 76ers to a win over the Indiana Pacers.
The 113-101 loss to the Pacers was the 76ers’ third loss at home this season and their second loss this week as they slumped to 19-11.
With Jimmy Butler out with a strained groin, Embiid stood up again, scoring 28 points and racking up 14 rebounds — in the first half.
He’s just the third player in the past 15 years to have such a half.
Aussie superstar Ben Simmons was strong as well scoring 10 points with six rebounds in the first half and finishing just short of a double-double with 18 points and nine assists. But he was dwarfed by his teammate.
Embiid passed 30 points and 20 rebounds, becoming the first Philadelphia player since Charles Barkley in 1990 to do so and the 10th player in the history of the franchise to record such a feat.
He ended the night with 40 points, 21 rebounds and three assists.
It was an incredible performance and one that renews calls for the 24-year-old Cameroonian’s MVP favouritism.
He’s been putting up huge numbers with his first half double-double his 25th of the season in just 28 games, which leads the NBA ahead of Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz, who has 24 from 29 games.
Embiid has also had 15 games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds, with Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo next best on eight.
He’s averaging more than 26 points per game to sit sixth in the NBA and 13 rebounds each outing, placing him fourth overall.
Fans were stunned by the performance.
The 76ers led 59-49 at halftime but the Pacers hit back in the third quarter, leading 80-77 in a huge turnaround, while Embiid moved to 32 points and 19 assists.
For the Pacers, Thaddeus Young led the way with 26 points and 10 rebounds, while Domantas Sabonis had 14 points and 16 rebounds.
With Butler on the sidelines, it appears the extra freedom has paid off for Embiid.
Last week, he said he had been frustrated with his role at the 76ers.
“I haven’t been myself lately,” Embiid told Philly.com. “I think it’s mainly because of the way I’ve been used, which is I’m being used as a spacer, I guess, a stretch-five, which I’m only shooting 29 per cent” from three-point range.
“But it seems like the past couple games, like with the way I play, our setup, (coach Brett Brown) always has me starting on the perimeter and it just really frustrates me.
“My body feels great, and it’s just I haven’t been playing well.”
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