The Philadelphia 76ers didn’t have Ben Simmons for Thursday night’s tilt against the Brooklyn Nets, and for a period of time, it looked like they were about to get ran off their home floor. Brooklyn ripped off a 40-8 run in the first half, which put the Nets comfortably ahead and led to fans in the City of Brotherly Love booing.
But Philly was still able to come out on top in overtime, 112-104, thanks in large part to a monster performance by Joel Embiid. With Josh Richardson struggling and Al Horford still getting used to life as the team’s sixth man, Embiid rose to the occasion, scoring 39 points on 10-for-20 shooting, hauling in 16 rebounds, and blocking a pair of shots. Embiid’s had plenty of big nights in his career, with this one being the latest addition to the list.
— NBA (@NBA) February 21, 2020
After the game, Embiid gave a quote to the media where he made the kind of bold proclamation that has become commonplace for the All-Star big man. According to Tim Bontemps of ESPN, Embiid talked about his performance in Sunday’s midwinter classic and how that translated to Thursday night, mentioning that he views himself as the best player in the world.
“For sure,” Embiid said. “The All-Star Game was fun. Being there in the fourth quarter, doing my thing at the end of the game, I thought it was great.
“But the All-Star Game, just proving I’m here, I belong, and being the best player in the world, I just intend to keep coming out every single night and just play hard and trying to get wins and just go out and try to win a championship.”
Embiid is, of course, not going to say that he does not consider himself the best player in the world, because he is a competitor and people wired the way he’s wired will always strive to reach the top of the mountain, both individually and as a member of a team. While that title might not be one he has fully in his grasp in the eyes of most, and while he’s made it clear in the past that he knows there are nights he has to be better, he’s certainly capable of producing at a level that few others can match on his best days.
Now, the goal is to salvage what has been a subpar year in Philly, peak in time for the postseason, and show that he can lead a team with title aspirations. Whether or not he can do that remains to be seen, but if he does, perhaps he will be able to back up the lofty claim he made on Thursday evening.