Zach LaVine and the Chicago Bulls came to Philly to face the Sixers on Friday night. Although the 76ers had to play without one of their stars in Ben Simmons, the Bulls couldn't get comfortable because they still had to compete against the force that is Joel Embiid.
In pretty much every game this season, Embiid has dominated his opponents. As the game slowed down for the big man, he's able to collect points from anywhere on the floor as he's averaging a career-high in field goal and three-point percentage. Not to mention, he's getting fouled at a historical rate and tends to knock down most, if not all, of his foul shots every time he hits the free-throw line.
Plenty of teams have fallen victim to Embiid's dominance so far this season, and the Chicago Bulls became the latest on Friday night as they left Philly with a 112-105 loss after a career game put on by Embiid.
In 35 total minutes on the floor, Embiid shot 17-for-26 from the field, putting up a career-high of 50 points. LaVine, who knows Embiid pretty well, explained what went wrong for the Bulls against the unstoppable center.
“He had one of them nights, man. It’s tough; he made a lot of contested fadeaway jumpers," LaVine said after the game. "Even when the double team came, he got offensive rebounds. For a guy that size to be that skilled and to shoot that well, there’s not a lot you can do when he’s making those shots, to be honest with you."
LaVine made a valid point. The Bulls didn't have a lousy defensive game against Embiid and the Sixers. The big man was just in a groove and couldn't be taken out of it no matter how hard the Bulls tried.
"It’s tough," LaVine continued. "I thought we played really good defense on him at times, and he still made shots. You can try to get the ball out of his hands and try to make everybody else beat you, but he had 50, man. And it was a close game. It took him 50 to beat us -- and that’s tough. He did his job as an MVP candidate, obviously.”
Before Friday night's game, Embiid was already in the MVP conversation. Now that he had a 50-point game, it only boosts Embiid's odds of solidifying himself as the best player in the NBA this season. There is still a lot of basketball left to be played, but Embiid seems to get closer to his goal of becoming the best as every matchup passes.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_