The Philadelphia 76ers pulled out a tough 127-124 overtime win over the shorthanded Charlotte Hornets on Monday night, thanks largely to the efforts of Joel Embiid. Embiid had arguably his best game of the season so far, as he dominated Charlotte to the tune of 43 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and a steal — raw numbers that are extremely impressive. Embiid played a physical, bruising brand of basketball, as he consistently established deep post position and used his size to his advantage, and the Hornets simply didn’t have an answer.
The game was the fourth 40-point, 15-rebound and five-assist performance of his career, which is the second-most in Sixers franchise history, behind only the legendary Wilt Chamberlain. Embiid’s stats on Monday night become even more impressive when you consider how efficiently they were accumulated. Embiid took a total of 20 shots from the field to get his 43 points, and he missed just five of them. He also knocked down 12 of his 14 attempts from the foul line.
You couldn’t tell from watching him dismantle the Hornets, but Embiid is still working his way back into the flow of things after missing three weeks of action last month due to COVID-19. After the game on Monday night, the All-Star big man discussed his recovery and revealed that he’s far from 100 percent.
“I’m not even close to [100 percent]. I’m still feeling it,” Embiid said during his postgame walk-off interview. “I get tired easily, feel pretty weak. But every single day [I’m] slowly getting better. So I just got to keep pushing myself. My teammates, they push me. They want me to be making all the plays offensively and defensively, so as long as I got that trust I’m still going to keep pushing.”
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COVID-19 impacts people differently, and Embiid was hit hard by the virus. Upon his return to game action late last month, Embiid emphasized how difficult it was for him. “It hasn’t been good. That jawn hit me hard,” Embiid said. “I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. It was that bad. So I’m just thankful to be sitting here. I struggled with it, but I’m just glad that I got over it and I’m here doing what I love with some good people.”
Embiid isn’t the first NBA player to acknowledge the difficultly of returning to game action following a bout with COVID-19. Boston Celtics forwards Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both said that they dealt with extended breathing and fatigue issues. With enough time out on the floor, Embiid should hopefully be able to get back close to 100 percent. In the meantime, the fact that he is able to play 40-plus minutes and put the Sixers on his back as he did on Monday night is applaudable.