Joel Embiid scored a career-high 59 points and added 11 rebounds, eight assists and seven blocked shots in a historically dominant performance, carrying the Philadelphia 76ers to a 105-98 victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday night.
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.
Malik Beasley scored 18 points for the Jazz.
With the Sixers up 101-98 and 1:19 left, Embiid blocked Collin Sexton’s driving layup and then the All-Center came right down and hit a little jumper that sealed the victory.
Embiid shook off nagging injuries to post his breakthrough game of the 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.
Tyrese 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.
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! and one yelled “He’s gonna get 60!”
The Jazz gave him every opportunity with a string of fouls down the stretch and the big man kept knocking ’em down from the line. He missed just his fourth free throw attempt late in the game that made it 101-98.
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.
Rivers was in the midst of an 18-game losing streak as coach of the Boston Celtics during the 2006-07 season and wondered if perhaps a coaching change was on the horizon. Instead, team President Danny Ainge often apologized for his role in putting together the roster. Rivers said Ainge would tell him, be patient, hang in there. Patience paid off, Ainge and Rivers would win the NBA championship with Boston in 2008.
Ainge is now Utah’s CEO and has preached similar patience as he was set to undergo a rebuild this season. He’s also put his faith in rookie coach Will Hardy.
“He’s never very emotional with his reaction,” Hardy said. “As a young coach, as a first-time head coach, that’s very calming. He’s never too riled up. He’s been unbelievably supportive and I definitely feel like I have his trust.”
Dan Gelston, writer for The Associated Press, authored this story.