Denver’s Nikola Jokic might be named as the first-team All-NBA center this season. Well-deserved as Jokic is a spectacular player and already one of the best passing big men in league history. However, all due respect to the Joker, but he’s not close in terms of dominating a game among NBA centers as Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid is – Embiid probably will be second-team All-NBA simply because he was limited to 64 regular-season games due to injury/rest.
In the 76ers’ Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Toronto Raptors, Embiid was rather quiet in the first two games in Toronto in averaging just 14 points and seven rebounds and shooting a combined 7-for-25 from the field. He just didn’t look right, partly no doubt because of knee soreness that Embiid was playing through but also good defense from Raptors big man Marc Gasol.
The series shifted to Philadelphia on Thursday and the Sixers rolled 116-95 to take a 2-1 lead as Embiid was spectacular with 33 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and three assists in just 28 minutes – Embiid simply isn’t going to play 40 minutes as his body can’t take it. He was 9-for-18 from the field, 3-for-4 from deep and 12-for-13 from the charity stripe.
It was Embiid’s second game with at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in these playoffs. The rest of the NBA has done it once over the last 10 postseasons: the Warriors’ Kevin Durant in the 2017 NBA Finals against Cleveland.
An argument can be made that the 76ers have the best starting five in the NBA east of Golden State, and that group of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and Embiid played 18 combined minutes together in Game 3. In that time, the 76ers outscored the Raptors 44-32, good for a spectacular net rating of 32.5 points per 100 possessions. The Sixers’ starters have now outscored the competition by 34.5 points per 100 possessions in these playoffs. Butler had another great game on Thursday with 22 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Simmons had just one turnover in 36 minutes.
Game 3 was a loss for bettors overall. The moneyline (Raptors -120) lean at SBR was on Toronto at about 52 percent and the pointspread lean (Raptors -1.5) was also on Toronto, so those were obvious losses. In addition, 56 percent of the total lean was on ‘over’ 216.5. Thus, 0-for-3 for the majority.
Kawhi Leonard has done just about all he has wanted in this series for the Raptors and did again on Thursday with 33 points, but Toronto was outscored by 11 with him on the court. Gasol had just seven points and was minus-26. Kyle Lowry had his second lousy game of this series with seven points and was minus-28. Once again, that vaunted Raptors bench disappointed with a combined 15 points. Might Nick Nurse decide to move Serge Ibaka into the starting five and shift Gasol to the bench? Ibaka did start before the Gasol trade and still did sometimes after.