76ers’ Joel Embiid on not winning NBA MVP award: “My focus is on winning the championship”
Joel Embiid may have been motivated by the results of the NBA MVP vote, the possibility of losing 0-2 in the Eastern Conference semifinals, or a combination of the two. Regardless, the 76ers center played Tuesday with a level of strength the Hawks just couldn’t match.
In Philadelphia’s 118-102 victory over Atlanta, Embiid scored 40 points (13 of 25 in baskets, 12 of 16 in free throws) and took 13 rebounds, making him the First Sixers player with a 40-10 playoff game since Billy Cunningham in 1970. In the first two games of the series against the Hawks, Embiid has now racked up 79 points on 54.3% shots, which is incredible considering the All-Star is playing with a side tearing of the. meniscus in the right knee.
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The 76ers’ victory came the same night the NBA announced Nuggets star Nikola Jokic had won the NBA MVP 2020-21 award. Jokic won 91 out of 101 possible votes for first place after playing in every regular season game and averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists. Embiid, who averaged 28.5 points and 10.6 rebounds in 51 regular-season games, led all players with 62 second-place votes.
Asked about the results of the vote after Game 2, Embiid told reporters he had not focused on the awards throughout the second half of the season and “just wanted to prepare for this moment”.
“It’s disappointing because as a player you work hard for times like this”, Embiid said. “But again, it’s out of my control. There’s nothing I can do about it. I just have to go out every year and just be ready and do my job. I’m focused on the playoffs. I’m focused on winning the Like I said all season, we have a good chance.
“So I’m not worried about these awards and all that. If and when I hold this trophy, nothing else will matter.”
This is the answer you want to hear if you are a Sixers fan. Obviously, Embiid would have preferred to finish ahead of Jokic, but at just 27, he has more MVP-caliber seasons ahead of him. His main focus should be on this playoff run.
Philadelphia is a legitimate title contender as long as Embiid can stay healthy, but there’s still a lot of work to be done if the 76ers are to come out of the east side of the playoff bracket. The Hawks have already shown they’re going to be tough, and if the 76ers are able to get past them, either the Bucks or the Nets will present a huge challenge in the Eastern Conference Finals.