Inside Joel Embiid’s historic 46-point night in Los Angeles

Add 15 rebounds, 7 assists and 7 blocks and no NBA player ever had a night like this.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Los Angeles Lakers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
danlevy_0328s

This is the game Sixers fans have been dreaming of from Joel Embiid, so naturally, the big man had his best outing in the NBA out in Los Angeles, when most Philly fans were already snoozing. Embiid torched the Lakers with a career-high 46 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists and 7 blocks. FORTY-SIX POINTS! SEVEN BLOCKS! TRUST THE PROCESS!

The Sixers beat Lonzo Ball and the Lakers 115-109 to win their second-straight game at Staples Center, holding off the Clippers 109-105 Monday night, and ending their five-game West Coast swing at 8-6, winning seven of their last nine games overall.

Embiid had 18 points in the first half, helping the Sixers to a four-point lead at the break, but after the Lakers outscored the Sixers by five in the third quarter, Embiid took the game over in the fourth, dropping 19 points on 6-of-7 from the field and 6-of-7 from the line in just over 10 and a half minutes on the floor. He also had two assists and a block. And no turnovers.

Per NBA.com, Embiid is the first player to record a game of 46/15/7/7 in NBA history. And he did it in 34 minutes. It was the most points for a Sixers player since Allen Iverson dropped 46 against the Bulls nearly 11 years ago. Only two players in the early NBA season have more than 46 points in a game: LeBron with 57 against the Wizards and James Harden with 56 against Utah.

embiid-spinmove

In two games in LA this week, Embiid had 78 points, hitting 25 of his 40 shots from the floor and making 25 of his 35 free throws, while grabbing 31 rebounds, dishing 9 assists and blocking 8 shots.

In his previous 41 career games, Embiid scored 30 or more points just three times. He had never scored more than 33 points until Wednesday night. It helps, of course, that Embiid is getting more time on the court this season, as his minutes restriction has been lifted, going more with a “I’ll sit when I’m tired” model that has worked so far this year. In his rookie year, Embiid averaged just 25.4 minutes in 31 games, while through his dozen appearances this year he’s averaging 29 minutes per game.

embiid-dish-simmons

In November, Embiid has played 30 or more minutes in four of the six games he’s played, getting 28 in a win against the Pacers and just 25 in a blowout loss to the Warriors but 30-plus in all the rest. In the last two games, against veteran centers like DeAndre Jordan, Brook Lopez and Andrew Bogut, Embiid has been flat-out dominant. Wednesday, Embiid had 14 of the Sixers’ 42 made field goals, taking 19 of the team’s 30 free throws attempted. Here’s his shot chart, without his 16-of-19 from the line.

Embiid shot chart
NBA

As good as his offensive game was Wednesday night, it was his work on the defensive end that impacted the game the most. His seven blocks were a career high — he had five twice last year — but even when Embiid wasn’t blocking a shot, he was impacting it. The Lakers shot just 34.5 percent from the field Wednesday, and while their three-point shooting was woeful (2-for-15) they were just as miserable in the paint, connecting on just 16 of their 31 attempts on the low block and just 17 of their 39 shots in the paint.

lakers_shotchart
NBA

It wasn’t all Embiid against the Lakers. Ben Simmons added 18 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds, just one shy of his second career triple-double. Simmons played more than 39 minutes, holding Lonzo Ball to just two points and a minus-18 in the game. Both Simmons and Embiid were plus-19 to lead the Sixers. On most nights, Simmons would grab some headlines with stat line like that in such a high-profile matchup. But last night was all about the big man.

“You try to find that balance of not walking it up the floor every time, and just posting Joel,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said after the game. “We ended up doing that, and he was just dominant. It’s always that slippery slope of playing with pace and movement, and then realizing you’ve got Joel Embiid.

“Tonight, we realized we had Joel Embiid.”