In one of the most exciting games of the season featuring two of the NBA’s top scorers, Joel Embiid dropped 40 points and the Philadelphia 76ers held off a late rally from the Chicago Bulls, despite a season-high 45 points from DeMar DeRozan.
Embiid, the NBA’s leading scorer and the betting favorite to win the MVP, dropped 40 points and hauled down 10 rebounds in a clutch victory for the 76ers to snap a two-game skid.
Only 1.5 games separate the #1 and #5 seed in the traffic jam at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. The Bulls currently hold down the #2 seed and have a slim, one-game lead over the 76ers in the #5 seed.
The Miami Heat retained the #1 seed, which means head coach Erik Spoelstra will coach Team Durant in the upcoming NBA All-Star Game. With the win, the 76ers denied Chicago the #1 seed and an opportunity for Chicago’s Billy Donovan from coaching in the All-Star Game.
Embiid: 40 points and the W
Although DeRozan outgunned Embiid, Embiid still unleashed his seventh 40-point game of the season. He shot an efficient 14-for-23 from the floor, including two 3-pointers, and a 10-for-11 clip from the free-throw line.
“We’ve beaten a few of those top teams,” Embiid said. “Also, we dropped games that we shouldn’t have, so it goes both ways. We’re right there. For us to have a chance, we have to be perfect. I have to do what I’ve been doing, be that dominant and maybe even more.”
Embiid has a PER rating of 31.96 for second-best in the NBA behind Nikola Jokic. H’s ranked #9 in rebounding with 10.9 boards per game. He’s also averaging a career-high 29.3 ppg, which is one of the reasons he’s getting a lot of vocal support to win the MVP.
Embiid has been on a heater since the new year began. He averaged 34 points and 10.8 rebounds per game in January while shooting 54.2% from the floor.
DeRozan: 45 points and the L
DeRozan unleashed a season-best 45 points without hitting any 3-pointers. He missed both of his attempts, but shot 18-for-30 overall and 9-for-11 from the charity stripe. He also added nine rebounds and seven assists in the loss.
The Bulls were down 17 points in the fourth quarter and stormed back to get within striking distance before the 76ers pulled away in the closing minutes.
“We know we’re gonna get everybody back in due time,” said DeRozan. “Until then, we’re just trying to figure it out. We’re just trying to continue to get better, figure out our mistakes on the go.”
DeRozan put on a show because the Bulls were missing a couple of starters. Zach LaVine, who is the Bulls’ second-best scorer, sat out with back spasms. Coby White, who is filling in for Lonzo Ball (knee), missed Sunday’s game with a strained groin.
DeRozan now averages 27 points per game, which is fourth-best in the NBA. His PER rating of 24.14 is ranked #9.
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