The Joel-Embiid era in Philadelphia hasn’t always gone the way the fans had dreamed of when the 76ers drafted him with the third overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He missed the entire 2014-15 season with a broken navicular bone in his foot and the team missed out on the playoffs in Embiid’s first season of play.
While the 76ers have qualified for the postseason for three consecutive seasons, they have never made it past the second-round with Embiid on the squad and were eliminated in the opening round last year by the Boston Celtics. This season seems to be different though, and Monday evening was evidence of that.
Embiid put up 36 points against the Dallas Mavericks to help Philadelphia earn a crucial 113-95 victory. The win moves the 76ers into first place in the Eastern Conference, half a game up on the Brooklyn Nets who had their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves cancelled on Monday night because of the shooting death of a Black man by police in the Minnesota-area.
Philadelphia get set to host the Nets at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday evening in what is quickly becoming one of the most anticipated games of the regular season thus far.
“Honestly until walking into this interview I didn’t know we played Brooklyn next,” 76ers’ coach Doc Rivers said, via ESPN. “I’ll close the book on Dallas when we get on the plane and then start watching whoever the next opponent is. It’ll be a fun game for both teams.”
Dallas were not at full strength on Monday, with Kristaps Porzingis out of the lineup because the Mavericks had also played Sunday and didn’t want the star featuring in both nights of the back-to-back. Dallas still leads the Southwest division with a 29-24 record.
“I wish we had our full complement of guys and had a day of rest coming into the game,” Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle said, via ESPN. “But this season you’re rarely going to get what you want when it comes to that kind of stuff.”
The 76ers haven’t finished the season sitting first in the Eastern Conference since 2000-01 when they went all the way to the final before being knocked out by the Los Angeles Lakers in five games.
Philadelphia still has 18 games to go and are a long way off of clinching the Eastern Conference, but if Embiid can continue to put up performances like he did on Monday night then his team have a real opportunity for success during the regular season and playoffs.
“I thought he played in attack mode all night, didn’t settle,” Rivers said, via ESPN. “He felt like the last couple of games, he’d been settling. He was phenomenal in how aggressive he was. He made the right plays.”
The 27-year-old is averaging 29.6 points, 11 rebounds and three assist in 36 games played this season as he continues to enjoy the best statistical year of his career.
Philadelphia’s showdown against Brooklyn is scheduled for Wednesday night with tipoff set for 7 pm ET.