Joel Embiid Explains Why He's 'Unguardable' After 50-Point Performance vs. Bulls

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid plays during an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid explained his success this season after a 50-point outburst against the Chicago Bulls on Friday.

Following 112-105 victory in which he sent a career mark for points in a single game, Embiid had the following to say regarding his performance, according to ESPN's Tim Bontemps:

"That's what makes me unguardable. If you're going to crowd me, I'm going to find my way to the free-throw line or I'm going to end up at the basket. If you back up on me, I've got the hesi—that hesitation shot—and my favorite, just pull-up shot. [That's] just an easy shot I always get in the post.

"So it's hard [to stop me] when you've got that much. And also off the dribble just dribbling the ball and just making things happen. I've been adding a lot to my game, and it's been working well."

Embiid is in the midst of what is by far the best season of his career, and he has the Sixers off to a 20-10 start, putting them atop the Eastern Conference.

While Embiid has been an elite-level talent throughout his career, he has been prevented from reaching his ceiling because of injuries.

He didn't play at all in what would have been his first two NBA seasons, and then he didn't appear in more than 64 games in any of the next four campaigns.

Embiid has dealt with a nagging back injury in recent weeks and has sat out six games, but the absences have been intermittent and largely by design as a means of keeping him fresh and healthy for the playoffs.

When on the floor this season, Embiid has been unstoppable at times. The 26-year-old star is averaging 30.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals per game, putting him in the thick of the MVP conversation.

Embiid suggested that ratcheting up his intensity and effort level, as well as a better supporting cast around him, has contributed to his glow up as well:

"It just feels like the game has slowed down for me. I'll say the only difference this year from last year is not so much about coaching; it's more about me being willing to just dominate every single minute I'm on the floor. Last year, I was going through a rough time; it was just not there. And then also the moves that [new Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey] made, adding all that shooting, is also helping a lot.

"But like I said, it's not about coaching, it's about me turning a corner and being willing to do it every single night on defense and on offense."

Embiid has been the driving force behind Philly's success this season, but he has gotten plenty of help from his teammates as well.

Tobias Harris has been excellent after a down year in 2019-20, as he is averaging 20.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.

Also, the likes of Ben Simmons, Shake Milton and trade acquisition Seth Curry are performing at a high level, which has made life easier for Embiid.

If Embiid stays healthy and keeps playing like he has been, the Sixers may finally be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference after several years of playoff shortcomings.