Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid can take a loss. However, taking several consecutive losses isn't accepted in his book. On Tuesday night against the Miami Heat, the Sixers were potentially facing a fourth-straight loss against a depleted Miami team.
Granted, the Sixers were in a tough spot of their own as they were missing a good chunk of players as well -- but Embiid knew he was the best player on the floor Tuesday night and he wanted to prove that on the scoreboard and the stat sheet.
After a lousy first-half showing by the Sixers, Embiid took the game into his own hands at the start of the third quarter. In a little over nine minutes of action, Embiid scored 20 points, going eight-for-eight from the field, and four-for-four from the stripe.
By the end of regulation, Embiid helped the Sixers even the score at 120 with a smooth jumper, giving him 34 points to add to his 16 rebounds, four assists, and five steals. Once the 76ers got into overtime against the Heat, there was no way Embiid was losing. The big man stayed on the floor for the entire five-minute period.
He knocked down four of his five field-goal attempts and went a perfect three-for-three from the foul line. Embiid's 11 points in overtime helped the Sixers claw out of the game with a 137-134 win over the Heat. Afterward, Embiid's veteran backup Dwight Howard had nothing but heavy praise for the young star.
“I’m proud of Joel how he’s handled himself this year,” Howard said on Tuesday night. “I’m a big believer in him. I think he has the potential to be one of the greatest big men to ever play basketball. It’s really on him and how bad he wants it and I just want to be there for him being here for him. He showed tonight what he’s capable of and what he can do for his whole career.”
Embiid's talent was never in question by outsiders. Instead, his work ethic, health, and conditioning was always a main point of conversation when discussing his game. While health concerns will always be a part of Embiid due to his past, the big man clearly flipped a switch this season in other departments as he's looked better than ever through the first few weeks of the 2020-2021 NBA season.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_