Joel Embiid couldn't quite get the Philadelphia 76ers over the finish line on Friday against the Golden State Warriors, but he did everything in his power to secure an unlikely victory. With James Harden sidelined due to an injury, Embiid scored 46 points on 13-of-23 shooting from the field and 19-of-22 shooting from the line. The 76ers came into the fourth quarter with the lead, but ultimately couldn't hold on as the Warriors won, 120-112.
But that didn't stop the Warriors from praising their opponent, or that opponent from taking credit for a stellar performance. Former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green was particularly impressed with the message that Embiid sent him after the game.
"He told me, he said, 'You know why I played like that tonight? You said Joker (Nikola Jokic) was the hardest person to guard in the league. So I took that personal'", Green joked to reporters. "And so I want to tell y'all Joel is the hardest guy to guard in the league."
Defending Embiid and Jokic are completely different jobs. Jokic's goal is to invite double-teams so he can pick you apart as a passer. There are only a handful of players—Green among them—who have defended Jokic one-on-one with any degree of success. He can kill you as a scorer, but there's a reason he's managed to stay in the MVP race despite his relatively meager scoring average of 24.8 points per game.
CBS Sports HQ Newsletter
Your Ultimate Guide to Every Day in Sports
We bring sports news that matters to your inbox, to help you stay informed and get a winning edge.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Embiid is not only a more aggressive scorer at 33.4 points per game, but he makes it almost impossible for anyone to guard him for full games because of how easily he draws fouls. Embiid is averaging 11.9 free throw attempts per game. He's not just bowling players over near the basket hoping for whistles, either. Embiid has made 158 mid-range shots this season. That's the third-most in the NBA.
You can't go wrong with either of them, and the conversation extends to fellow MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo as well as a number of perimeter players. But with the MVP race nearing its conclusion, nights like Embiid's on Friday are going to resonate more than ever. Praise from other players is going to count in a race this close, and right now, Embiid is getting plenty of it.