Joel Embiid usually isn’t one to mince words and he certainly didn’t do that following the 76ers’ 130-114 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Monday night in which he got the best of his opposing center, Myles Turner.
Embiid dropped 24 points on 10-for-17 shooting with 13 rebounds in the victory and did it against one of the top defensive centers in the game in Turner, who was keen on proving that he could keep up with the Sixers’ star.
“If I am who I think I am, I’m going to step up to the challenge,” Turner said prior to Monday’s game.
Well, it might be time for some self-reflection.
“He’s a great player and I have a lot of respect for him,” Embiid said after his performance against Turner and the Pacers. “I say this respectfully, that’s a matchup that I have dominated since I got to the league.”
He isn’t wrong. In 10 career games against Turner, Embiid is averaging a gaudy 28.4 points per game with 12.6 rebounds.
But it was also Embiid’s work on the defensive side of the ball that made a statement.
Embiid limited Turner to 11 points and three rebounds while he continues to make his claim for Defensive Player of the Year honors.
“[Turner is] a great defender, he leads the league in blocks, he should be up there for Defensive Player of the Year and that’s also one of my goals,” Embiid added. “In those types of matchups, that’s where you got to take advantage. Especially if I have my eyes set on being the Defensive Player of the Year.”
With one game left before the All-Star break, the challenge doesn’t get any easier. The Sixers host the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center where Embiid will be matched up against Rudy Gobert — a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and a steady force under the basket.
Gobert is averaging a career-best 2.8 blocks per game to with 14.2 points and 13.2 rebounds per contest.
Embiid has fared decently against Gobert in five-career games, averaging 20.6 points and 11.6 rebounds. However, his field-goal percentage of 40.6% is considerably lower than his career mark of 48.5% from the floor and the 52.1% he’s shooting from the field this season.
In their last meeting in December of 2019, Embiid was limited to just 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting while Gobert went off for 27 points and 12 rebounds on 11-of-15 shooting.
The most important thing, though, was that the 76ers won that game and are 3-2 in the five games that Embiid and Gobert match up.