Two of the NBA’s best centers each put on a showcase Wednesday that proved why they are both so highly regarded.
Reigning Kia MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and All-NBA big man Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers were both in a zone in wins on Wednesday night. Jokic came through with 49 points, 14 rebounds and the game-winning assist to secure his third straight triple-double in a 130-128 overtime win against the LA Clippers. Embiid tied his career high with a 50-point showing in a 123-110 win against the Orlando Magic while also chipping in 12 rebounds and three blocks.
Each performance was impressive and its hard to decide which one was moreso. Let’s take a closer look at each one:
Nikola Jokic’s 49-point triple-double
Triple-doubles have been nothing new for Jokic whether you’re talking about this season or his career at large. He had 66 career triple-doubles and nine triple-doubles this season heading into Wednesday night. That all changed against the rival Clippers with the game on the line.
Jokic drew a double-team, then whipped a pass across the court into the left corner. Gordon made his fourth 3-pointer of the game to give Jokic his third straight triple-double and 10th of the season. Overall, Jokic shot 16-for-25, was 3-for-5 on 3-pointers and 14-for-16 on free throws. That marked the 15th time this season Jokic has shot 64% or better and, aside from the 3-pointers, his makes all came within eight feet of the basket.
Since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77, only four players have amassed a 45-point triple-double on 60% shooting, with Jokic being the most recent addition to the list. The last such game took place four years ago when James Harden had his record 60-point triple-double against the Magic.
|Player||Date (result)||Triple-double stats||FG%|
|Nikola Jokic||Jan. 19, 2022 vs. Clippers (W)||49 pts, 14 reb, 10 ast||64%|
|James Harden||Jan. 30, 2018 vs. Magic (W)||60 pts, 10 reb, 11 ast||63.3%|
|Larry Bird||Feb. 14, 1986 vs. Blazers (W)||47 pts, 14 reb, 11 ast||61.7%|
|Alvan Adams||Feb. 22, 1977 vs. Braves||47 pts, 18 reb, 12 ast||66.7%|
Interestingly, Jokic’s triple-double moment may not have even happened in this game were it not for a turn of events in the third quarter.
His follow shot tied the game at 72 with 4:40 left in the third, but he immediately picked up a technical foul for barking at the referee under the basket. He began to charge at the official, but Nuggets coach Michael Malone ran onto the court, restrained Jokic and he avoided a second technical.
“I was mad because he grabbed my leg when I was going up (for the shot),” Jokic said.
Jokic, who has complained that he doesn’t get enough foul calls for much of the season, stayed in the game and delivered the game-winning dime.
Joel Embiid’s 50 pts in 27 minutes
For Embiid, he racked up his 50 points in just 27 minutes, marking the second 50-point game of his career. His scoring efficiency in limited minutes is not unheard of for him as he has played 27 or less minutes in a game 78 times in his career, but has eight games of 30 or more points in those scenarios.
Overall, Embiid shot 17-for-23 from the field, was 1-for-4 on 3-pointers and 15-for-17 on free throws. As his shot chart shows, he did his work all over the court, sprinkling in equal parts layups with fadeaway jumpers and pull-up shots.
In doing his work so efficiently, he joined a list of recent players who put up 50 or more points in the fewest minutes played. Embiid’s 50-point showing in (officially) 27 minutes and 3 seconds ranks as the fourth-quickest 50-point game in league annals. He’s the first player with 50 or more points in less than 28 minutes since Klay Thompson dropped 52 on the Bulls back in 2018.
|Player||Date (result)||Minutes played||Points|
|Damian Lillard||Feb. 9, 2018 vs. Kings (W)||29:29||50|
|CJ McCollum||Jan. 31, 2018 vs. Bulls (W)||29:16||50|
|Klay Thompson||Dec. 5, 2016 vs. Pacers (W)||29:03||60|
|Joel Embiid||Jan. 19, 2022 vs Magic (W)||27:03||50|
|Klay Thompson||Oct. 29, 2018 vs. Bulls (W)||26:33||52|
Additionally, the double-double nature of his performance moved him into elite company with the Sixers as well. His 50-point showing vs. Orlando marked his 17th career game with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds, which ranks second only to Hall of Famer and 76ers legend Wilt Chamberlain. Embiid’s 17 40-10 games have all come since the start of the 2017-18 season, which ranks second only to Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden during that span.
He also became the only 76ers player besides Chamberlain to notch multiple 50-10 games in franchise history. Embiid also joined Chamberlain and Allen Iverson as the only 76ers with multiple 50-point games in their career with the team. Lastly, per Elias Sports, Embiid’s 50-point performance in 27:03 ranks as the fewest minutes played to get to a 50-10 game in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55).
Joel Embiid had 50 points and 12 rebounds in 27:03.
That's the fewest minutes played in a 50-point, 10-rebound game in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55).
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 20, 2022
As for his performance, Embiid had a simple explanation that was sparked by a pregame conversation with teammate Tyrese Maxey.
Before the game, Maxey asked Embiid: “Who you going to be tonight? Shaq (O’Neal)? Dirk (Nowitzki)?”
“(He said) ‘I’m going to be Joel,’” Maxey said. ”(I said) ‘You go be Joel.’ And that’s what he did.”
“I said me,” Embiid said, “because at times whenever I want I’m able to be Shaq, whenever I want I’m also able to be Dirk, or Kobe (Bryant) or MJ (Michael Jordan), or any guards really, meaning shooting off the dribble, or pull-ups, or ball-handling, just a combination of everything offensively.”
“That was easy, quick, efficient and determined,” Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s a little bit of (Hakeem) Olajuwon and a little bit of (Kevin) Garnett. It’s a heck of a combination if you can get it. But the difference is he can go out to the 3-point line, which sets him apart. He’s Joel Embiid; he’s not any of those guys. He’s his own guy.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.