PHILADELPHIA (AP)Tyrese Maxey jumped on Joel Embiid’s back and pounded the big man’s chest in celebration of the greatest game in the 76ers center’s career. The frivolity was fitting because Embiid carried the Sixers in the fourth quarter – all while each bucket etched his name alongside the greats in NBA history.
Embiid scored a career-high 59 points and added 11 rebounds, eight assists and seven blocked shots in a historically dominant performance, powering Philadelphia to a 105-98 victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday night.
”My teammates knew who had the hot hand and they just had to feed me,” Embiid said.
Embiid has clearly rounded back into form over the last week after recovering from an illness. The reigning NBA scoring champion dropped 42 points a night earlier in a win against Atlanta.
Embiid scored 26 of Philadelphia’s 27 points in the fourth quarter and he became the first player in NBA history with 50 points, 10 boards, five rebounds, five assists and five blocks in a game since blocks became an official stat in 1973-74.
”I’ve never seen a more dominating performance when you combine defense and offense,” coach Doc Rivers said.
There have been few like it in Philly, even for a franchise littered with basketball Hall of Famers. Embiid scored the fifth-most points in franchise history. Wilt Chamberlain, naturally, holds the top three spots with 68 in 1967, 65 in 1966 and 62 in 1966. Allen Iverson scored 60 in 2005.
”Those are two legends that played here that I respect a lot and to be in that company means a lot,” Embiid said. ”I still got a long ways to go.”
With the Sixers up 101-98 and 1:19 left, Embiid blocked Collin Sexton’s driving layup and then came right down and hit a little jumper that sealed the victory.
Embiid shook off nagging injuries to post his breakthrough game of his seventh season on the second night of a home back-to-back. He made 19 of 28 shots from the floor, 20 of 24 free throws and kept the Sixers from folding against the upstart Jazz. Embiid even tossed in a steal and his plus-minus was a whopping plus-25 in 37 minutes.
His 101 points this weekend made him only the third player since 1988 to score 100-plus points on a back-to-back. He combined for 21 rebounds and 14 assists. And he’s done it all with James Harden still out with an injured foot.
Embiid was aware he was on the brink of hitting 60 points – he tossed up a turnaround 3-pointer in the final minute that wasn’t close (he missed 4 of 5 3s overall).
”I could have easily dribbled the ball and pulled up,” Embiid said, laughing.
The number that stood out the most to Embiid: 0. The turnover-prone center had none in the second half after committing five in the first half.
Maxey chipped in 18 points for the Sixers but they had only 10 points from their other three starters. Embiid scored 13 points in the first quarter, 11 in the second and nine more in the third.
Maxey smiled as he repeatedly said, ”Joel Embiid is very good at basketball” to questions about the center’s effort. Because really, what other superlatives were left?
”I think you can tell he’s hitting his groove,” Maxey said.
Embiid sank two free throws with 4:56 left in the fourth for a 96-94 lead and he matched his career high with 50 points. Embiid had twice before scored 50 points. The 7-footer hit two more free throws at the 4:17 mark for a 98-96 lead.
He had Sixers fans chanting ”MVP! MVP! in appreciate and one yelled ”He’s gonna get 60!”
The Jazz gave him every opportunity with a string of fouls down the stretch and Embiid kept knocking ’em down from the line. He missed just his fourth free throw attempt late in the game that made it 101-98.
Malik Beasley scored 18 points. Sexton and Lauri Markkanen each scored 15 points for the Jazz, who lost a night earlier at Washington. The Jazz are 5-0 at home.
”It’s OK to be proud of how you’ve played to this point,” coach Will Hardy said. ”We try to have our guys embrace that. It’s on us as a staff to continue to teach and remind them that there’s still a lot we can get better at.”
Utah: Went 4-3 on a stretch of six of seven games on the road. … Missed 8 of 13 free throws in the first half.
76ers: Embiid scored 24 points in the first half, the 30th time since the start of last season he has scored 20-plus points in a half. … Matisse Thybulle had five steals.
Jazz: Host the New York Knicks on Tuesday.
76ers: Have the next four days off until another back-to-back home set against Milwaukee on Friday and Minnesota on Saturday.
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