Key details on last night's game:
- Joel Embiid had 52 points on 25 shots.
- The Sixers nearly blew a 7 point lead with 9 seconds left.
- Sixers can finish no lower than 3rd in the East.
- Box score
"We were trying to give them the game back. I mean, we really tried. We did a lot of things that you can't do," Rivers said after last night's win. "There's so many things that we did wrong. But what we did right was Joel Embiid."
That was how Sixers head coach Doc Rivers described the Sixers' performance in their 103-101 win over the Boston Celtics, their first victory over Boston this season.
The comment came after Rivers described how the Sixers nearly blew a 7-point lead with nine seconds left. A comedy of errors – from fouling 3-point shooters to giving up offensive rebounds off of intentionally missed free throws to struggles getting the ball inbounds – nearly turned what should have been a nondescript end of the game into a "what the heck did I just watch" moment at the Wells Fargo Center.
But the sentiment Rivers expressed goes beyond just the last few seconds, as the Sixers, one 7-foot center notwithstanding, were a disaster for most of last night. Their transition defense was in shambles early on, they were outscored by 13 points in the nine minutes that Embiid was on the bench and Embiid's teammates shot just 35.8% (19-53) for 51 points.
The Sixers had absolutely no business winning that game, except for the fact that they have Joel Embiid, and the Boston Celtics do not.
Embiid (52) scored more points than the rest of the Sixers combined (51), despite taking half the number of shots that his teammates did (25 for Embiid, 53 for his teammates). It was the 4th time all season that a player has outscored the rest of his teammates combined, and the second time that Embiid has done so, both in victories. It was also Embiid's third 50-point double double of the season. The only player (since 1983-84) to have more is James Harden in 2018-19, per StatMuse.
"He got them in rhythm. It was not forced shots. It was not him hunting for shots. It was us saying 'Please, make a shot' half the time," Rivers said of Embiid's shots.
Embiid averaged 36.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists in four games against the Celtics this season, while shooting 61.2% from the field. On top of last night's 52 point performance, he also has a 41/12/5 performance in the last-second loss from a few weeks ago. He shot at last 50% from the field in all four meetings between the two teams.
More importantly, in the last two meetings between these two teams the Sixers outscored the Celtics by a combined 25 points in 79 minutes with Embiid on the floor. I'm sure we'll touch on exactly how much you can read into that if and when these two teams advance to the second round of the playoffs.