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#pounditSunday, January 16, 2022

Joel Embiid on Heat: ‘They can’t guard me’

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid finally made his playoff debut on Thursday night after having to watch his team’s first two postseason games from the bench, and the big man managed to make a big statement. Naturally, he wasn’t surprised by the result.

Embiid scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the 76ers’ 128-108 win over the Heat. He was sporting a custom mask for protection in the wake of the orbital fractures he suffered, and Miami made a concerted effort to be physical with Embiid, fouling him a whopping 10 times.

It didn’t matter much.

“They were doing everything they could to take me out,” Embiid told ESPN Ramona Shelburne after the game. “But they can’t guard me.

“I’m going to be a nightmare for them. I love this moment. I love being physical. I love attacking, I love contact, so I felt like (my teammates) needed me in that way.”

It was obvious in Philly’s Game 2 loss that they missed Embiid’s physical presence. There was some concern that the 24-year-old’s playing style would be different with the protective mask, and the Heat were probably hoping that would be the case. However, Embiid said the 76ers training staff tested the mask to see what he could withstand before the game, and they were obviously satisfied.

“They [the Sixers] did everything possible,” Embiid said. “They were like throwing stuff at it to make sure it could withstand it.”

Embiid created a buzz when he went on a social media rant after the Sixers made him sit out Game 2, but that type of competitive edge is what wins playoff games. Without Embiid, there’s a good chance Philadelphia would be trailing 2-1 instead of heading into Game 4 with an advantage.

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