Joel Embiid is in elite company.
The 76ers center is just the fifth player since the ABA-NBA merger to have at least 20 games with 30-point and 10-rebound efforts before the All-Star Game. He joins New Orleans Pelicans post player Anthony Davis, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Moses Malone, a former Sixer.
Embiid’s 20th game came Monday night against a Houston Rockets squad featuring James Harden, the reigning league MVP.
Embiid finished with 32 points, a game-high 14 rebounds, and three blocks after being a game-time decision because of back tightness, and he did all that despite sitting out the fourth quarter. The team runs its offense through him, and he also the defensive anchor.
Harden scored a game-high 37 points on 26 shots despite also sitting out the fourth quarter. Five of his shots were blocked. The guard also had just three assists, 5.3 less than his season average.
Embiid’s performance proved he deserves to be in the same conversation as Westbrook in regards to MVP consideration.
“I love playing against guys that you might say that are better than me just to prove to you guys that they’re not,” Embiid said. “But it’s fun to me.”
But after publicly stating he deserves to win the 2019 MVP award, Embiid has changed his tune. After Monday’s win, the 24-year-old said his focus is on doing whatever the Sixers (31-17) need him to do.
“All I care about is winning,” he said. “If MVP comes with it, great. But right now, we are looking to win a lot of games and we are doing that.”
Monday’s victory marked the Sixers' fourth win in five games. At 31-17, they are a game behind the 31-15 Indiana Pacers for third place in the Eastern Conference.
They are 2-1 through three contests of their 12-game stretch against teams with winning records. They will host the San Antonio Spurs at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The Spurs routed the Sixers, 123-96, on Dec. 17 in San Antonio. Embiid had one of his worst performances of the season that night, making just 6 of 17 shots. However, he did manage to finish with 13 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, with four turnovers.