Joel Embiid has struggled to play like his usual self against the Toronto Raptors, but on Thursday night, his play took a positive turn.
Embiid has battled a stomach illness as well as an upper respiratory infection in the Philadelphia 76ers’ series against the Raptors. He hasn’t been effective on either end of the floor, and his scoring and defense has been missed.
But in Game 6, with the Sixers facing elimination, Embiid helped his team stay afloat. The Sixers forced a Game 7, defeating the Raptors 112-101. Embiid recorded a +40, the highest plus-minus of his career, according to Basketball Reference. He scored 17 points on 35.7 percent shooting, along with grabbing 12 rebounds and posting two blocks.
This is the best game Embiid has played in the series since Game 3, when the Sixers trounced the Raptors 116-95. He scored 33 points in that game, and though he didn’t shoot a good percentage in Game 6, Thursday’s game marks the most points Embiid has scored since Game 3.
But Embiid got the highest plus-minus of his career because of grabbing rebounds and playing good interior defense. Embiid was a force on the defensive end, and as the Raptors drove into the paint, his presence was a factor.
In the video below, Embiid helped ignite the Sixers’ fastbreak, blocking Kawhi Leonard as he attempted a layup.
Embiid drops into the lane often to contest defenders, but that’s his main strength as a rim protector. He’s skilled at tracking players’ shots and blocking them on time.
With the Sixers facing elimination, they needed Embiid to contribute in some way. He’s struggled to produce in this series, but Embiid’s performance aligned perfectly with his teammates. Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons were the Sixers’ leading scorers, so Embiid didn’t have to score too much.
Instead, Embiid’s impact on the Sixers’ defense was more important than his scoring. If he can have a similar performance in Game 7, then the Sixers should be positioned to have a chance at advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Sixers and Raptors will play Game 7 on Sunday at Scotiabank Arena at 7 p.m. EST.