Joel Embiid delivered one of the most impressive performances of the 2022-2023 season last weekend. When the Sixers faced the Denver Nuggets, two-time MVP Nikola Jokic became his main opponent, and Embiid seemed to have a little extra power from start to finish.
When asked if he thought Embiid had more motivation for the matchup given the circumstances, Philadelphia veteran Mathis Thybulle said the obvious.
“He has to,” Thybulle said of Embiid. “That’s what every reporter is talking about. If he’s the best player, he definitely looks like he’s up for a challenge.”
Over the past two years, Jokic and Embiid have been the subject of major controversy in the NBA. The two centers aren’t typically big, so Jokic and Embiid’s versatility will shine bright as they dominate the NBA. While many consider Embiid the best player in the league, Jokic has earned him MVP voters over the past two seasons.
The big man vented his frustrations with Jokic and the Nuggets on Saturday, two days after being informed that Embiid would not be the All-Star starter. He was one of Embiid’s most impressive performances this year, and it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
“It’s an MVP performance, and I feel like I’m watching it over and over again,” says Thybulle. “His consistent appearance, especially when we need him, seems to be the best thing in the NBA.”
Embiid denied that his matchup with Jokic or the “disrespectful” All-Star voters keeping him out of the starting lineup in Utah this year spurred his performance on Saturday. acknowledged his big game by “going from a bad game to aggressive”.
Against the Nets, Embiid scored 26 points in 34 minutes. It was the first time a big man didn’t break 30 points since New Year’s Eve in Philadelphia against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
How did he follow up? Knocking down 58% of his shots and scoring 47 points in 37 minutes. In addition to scoring, Embiid had a season-high 18 rebounds and he had five assists, while defensively in his end he stole three steals and hit two shots.
Winning has been Embiid’s motivation this season, and the Sixers did just that on Saturday. At this point, a near 50-point performance isn’t going to shock Thyble or anyone else on the Sixers.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers on All76ers on the Sports Illustrated channel. Follow him on Twitter for updates. @JGrasso_.