Sixers Joel Embiid said he “had to be Bill Russell” vs. Grizzlies to compensate his poor shooting with strong defense

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This Thursday, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid left his compass at home, as he missed shot after shot against Memphis in the return of regular season after the All-Star break. Incredible enough, the big man only scored two out of his 14 attempts through the first half during last night’s clash at the Wells Fargo Center. 

As his team was trailing behind, the French center knew that he had to change his strategy in order to have a positive impact for his squad. “For me, like I always say, defense is more important for me than offense,” Embiid said.

It was then and there when Embiid decided to evoke the spirit of franchise legend Bill Russell, and dedicate his energy on defending, instead of missing shots. “Even tonight, I could not make any shots, especially the one I usually make,” the 28-year-old said after the match. “But defensively, I thought I had to be Bill Russell tonight to be able to kind of balance it out.”

To Joel’s credit, his new strategy eventually worked out, as he dropped 27 points, won 19 rebounds, handed out 6 assists, one steal and 6 blocks in 38 minutes of play! So yes, you could see Russell would of been proud of Embiid last night, as Philly came back from behind to win the game 110 to 105.

We’ve gotta say, his performance was atypical to say the least last night. Throughout his seven campaigns in the NBA, the center’s 1-for-8 performance in the first quarter was tied for the worst he has ever shot, as for his 2-for-14 efficiency in the first half was tied for the most attempts he has ever missed in a half.

Defensively though, Embiid was monstrous. The big man won 17 defensive rebounds and was able to block six shots. One of those blocks was against none other than Memphis star Ja Morant, and is now a candidate for one of the best of the season.

Watch the moment the Frenchman stops one of the best slam dunkers in the NBA:

“I think there’s a pattern with myself where if you look at most of the games where I have bad shooting nights, I just can’t make the shots that I usually do,” Embiid said in press conference. “I go from having a good defensive game to having an amazing defensive game. That’s part of it. When you’re not contributing offensively, you’ve got to find a way, making your teammates better. So defensively, just being a monster. It was a little bit more of a focus on that end tonight.”

The Sixers comeback was only possible as a team effort

During the second half of the contest, it was the combination of Harden and Embiid that overcame the Grizzlies, as the center patrolled the court and Harden dropped 13 points and handed out 5 assists for Philadelphia in the last quarter.

“That’s a part of it,” Harden said about his squad’s comeback. “As much as you don’t want it to happen, it’s part of basketball, not making shots. We were resilient, and we fought and fought and fought and gave ourselves a chance.”

As for Embiid, he assured that he feels positive and rested after the All-Star break. “I felt pretty good,” he admitted. “Like I said before the All-Star break, whatever it is is all about rest, and I’ve had a couple. There’s a reason why I wasn’t part of the All-Star on Saturday, because I wanted to make sure I could get more rest.”

As the 76ers stand third in the East with a 39-19 record, most of our favorite sport betting sites consider Philadelphia possesses the 6th best odds (+1200) in the league to conquer the NBA title this year.