Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid stated his dominant efficiency in a 131-123 win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday evening was fueled by enjoying towards Rudy Gobert.
Embiid, who had 40 factors — together with the game-tying 3-pointer with 6.5 seconds left to go together with 19 rebounds, three assists, a steal and two blocks in 40 minutes — instructed ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan in December that Gobert should not have been third-team All-NBA final season over him. He additionally has stated repeatedly he desires to win Defensive Participant of the 12 months — an award Gobert is favored to win this season — and took exception to native media members saying he was “scared” of enjoying towards the Jazz huge man after lacking Philadelphia’s loss in Utah final month with a again harm.
“As we noticed tonight, it seems like I used to be very, very terrified of him,” Embiid stated, his voice dripping in sarcasm. “So, yeah, hold speaking.
“However going up towards him, one among my objectives is to even be Defensive Participant of the 12 months. So, you already know, once you go up towards these varieties of guys, he is an incredible participant, and you already know, he does lots for his group that do not present up on the stat sheet … however once you go towards these guys, you already know, it brings one thing else to my sport.
“I need to dominate. On the offensive finish, however primarily on the defensive finish, as a result of that is the objective I set for myself originally of the yr … these are the matchups that you just need to go on the market and simply dominate and show to all people that, as a group, that we’ve an incredible group, and, individually, you ought to be up there with regards to these rankings and stuff.”
Embiid was the distinction at each ends for Philadelphia. Whereas the Jazz outscored the Sixers 63-24 on the 3-point line, Embiid continued his season-long parade to the foul line — he took 13 himself, whereas the Jazz took 19 as a group, one among a number of issues that led as much as Jazz star Donovan Mitchell being ejected and a number of Utah gamers criticizing the officers after the sport. Embiid was additionally in every single place defensively, repeatedly breaking apart lobs to Gobert on the rim and, on one play, stopping a Mitchell drive solely to instantly bounce again up and block a Gobert dunk try.
However for Embiid, the shortage of respect he obtained in award voting final season, after the Sixers exited the playoffs in a first-round sweep by the Boston Celtics, has been a supply of motivation he has talked about publicly going again to the preseason.
He particularly, nonetheless, singled out Gobert as a supply of frustration for being chosen because the third-team All-NBA middle forward of him.
“I agree that Anthony Davis had a greater season than me,” Embiid instructed MacMullan in December. “[Nikola] Jokic? That is debatable. However Rudy Gobert? No offense, however he [averaged] 15 [points] and 13 [rebounds] and I had my 23 and 12, and that is form of a giant distinction. I feel my numbers have been higher. However folks did not need to vote for me as a result of our group did not do nicely.
“That is OK, as a result of I’ll use it to inspire me so there is no such thing as a probability that anybody could make that mistake once more.”
When requested after Wednesday’s sport if that snub performed any position in his efficiency, he did not attempt to cover it.
“That is fairly honest,” Embiid stated. “However what motivates me is to win the sport. With out successful, you already know, you are not a part of these conversations with regards to Defensive Participant of the 12 months and MVP and all that stuff. That is the very first thing. I need to win. That is all I care about.
“The previous is the previous. It is unlucky the way in which issues occurred final yr after I wasn’t on there … it performs an enormous position in my mentality this yr, simply eager to destroy every part in my path. I am enjoying towards numerous nice gamers each single evening. They’re actually good at what they do. However wherever I am wanted to get the job executed, defensively and offensively, that is what I’ve obtained to do.”
Embiid, who will begin Sunday’s All-Star Recreation in Atlanta, is having what simply is the most effective season of his profession, averaging 30.2 factors, 11.6 rebounds and three.3 assists. He is without doubt one of the main contenders for the MVP award, as Philadelphia enters the All-Star Break with a half-game lead over the Brooklyn Nets for the most effective file within the Jap Convention.
However, after a number of video games lately, Embiid has repeatedly stated he is extra fascinated by successful Defensive Participant of the 12 months than MVP — although, to be honest, he will not be turning that honor down if it winds up coming his approach.
And whereas Embiid stated a number of occasions Wednesday that teammate Ben Simmons additionally deserves to be within the combine for the defensive award — talking earlier than the sport, Sixers coach Doc Rivers stated he believes Simmons must be favored, forward of Gobert, for it — Embiid stated he’s targeted on successful the respect as a result of he has had that as a objective since coming into the NBA.
“After I got here into the league, I by no means thought I might be that good offensively,” Embiid stated. “I at all times targeted on the defensive facet, and that is at all times been my objective to win it. It might be good to do it, however like I stated, that is been my focus coming into the league, and clearly the scoring and the offensive facet has taken over.
“I hold going again to the identical factor — you may’t be in these conversations with out successful. Proper now, we’re successful, we’re first within the East, we beat the most effective group within the league. I obtained a bunch of nice teammates which might be doing an incredible job. You see [Sixers teammate Tobias Harris], that is why I am preaching for him to be an All Star, since you take a look at nights like tonight, he dominated in extra time. And you already know, as a group, we simply play all nicely collectively, we transfer the ball, and we defend nicely.”