Joel Embiid got the highest seal of approval from coach Doc Rivers after the All-Star center defeated Boston in his third 50-point game of the season and led the 76ers to victory.
“The MVP race is over,” Rivers said.
Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo are also considered favorites for the award. which has already sparked controversy.
Embiid, however, certainly won’t argue with his coach or Sixers teammates who defend him.
“They’re probably right,” Embiid said with a laugh. “But we have bigger goals in mind.”
Embiid reinforced his bid for the award with 52 points and 13 rebounds, as the nba The scoring leader led Philadelphia to a 103-101 victory over the Celtics on Tuesday night.
Embiid made 20 of 25 shots from the ground and 12 of 13 free throws en route to his ninth game of the season with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds. Embiid joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only NBA centers with three 50-point games in one season.
Embiid scored a career-high 59 points against the Utah Jazz in November and 53 against Charlotte in December. Considering the magnitude of this game (the 76ers hadn’t beaten their Eastern rivals all season), this effort was their most impressive yet.
“If they finish in the No. 2 seed, we could see them in the second round, if we get there,” Embiid said. The Sixers will be the number 3 seed heading into the playoffs.
In a game with a playoff vibe, this one came down to the wire as Jayson Tatum’s jumper fell just short at the buzzer.
As the season winds down, the same pressing question hangs over the Sixers just as it did at the start of the season: Who will join Embiid and James Harden as consistent playoff players?
PJ Tucker showed with his 3-point streak, left open in large part because Embiid was double-teamed, that he could be an option.
“PJ was huge. Three huge corner 3s, I mean, we didn’t win that game without him,” Embiid said.
Without the help of Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris and some production off the bench, the Sixers could be doomed to another 50-win second-round outing this season. The Sixers haven’t advanced to the Eastern Conference finals since 2001 and another flop early this season could lead to an turbulent offseason in Philadelphia.
Embiid left for the night in his slippers, after one of the best performances of his career, hoping that never becomes a concern.
“If we can correct a lot of the mistakes we made,” he said, “we have a great chance.”
Elsewhere, on Tuesday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers clinched the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. with a win over the Orlando Magic. Orlando’s loss eliminated them from contention and guarantees the Chicago Bulls a spot in the entry tournament. In the Western Conference, Phoenix Suns victory in the San Antonio Spurs they secured their place in the playoffs. They are guaranteed the #4 seed in their conference if they win one more game.