Joel Embiid has all but locked up becoming the first center to win an NBA scoring title in 22 seasons.
The 76ers star is averaging a league-best 30.573 per game after tallying 41 points in Saturday’s 133-120 victory over the Indiana Pacers at the Wells Fargo Center.
Embiid’s average would drop to 30.130 points if he plays and fails to score a point in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Detroit Pistons.
Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is the league’s second-leading scorer at 29.88 points. He would have to score 47 points on Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the scoring title if Embiid goes scoreless. Antetokounmpo would have to score 77 points to win it if Embiid sits.
Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal was the last center to lead the NBA in scoring, doing so during the 1999-2000 season. The last center to win a scoring title with a more than a 30-point average was Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo, who averaged 31.1 points in 1975-76.
And the last center to average more than 30 points in a season was Hall of Famer Moses Malone, who averaged 31.1 points as a Houston Rockets while being named MVP during the 1981-82 season. Malone was traded to the Sixers after that season, winning a second MVP award and an NBA title during the 1982-83 campaign.
So Embiid is in great company.
“Well. that’s the challenge for next year,” Embiid joked about Malone. “So, next year, I gotta come out and average more than him, but it’s great. Obviously, he’s a legend and it’s great, especially as a big in this era, it’s been a long time. It’s been, what, 40 years? So it hasn’t been done. That’s something that I think is great. I hope guys coming up more, especially bigs coming up, are able to do even more.”
In addition to scoring 41 points, Embiid had 20 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and one block on Saturday.
His points came off 14-of-17 shooting (82.3%) from the field and by making 11 of 15 (73.3%) foul shots. Embiid is the fifth player in NBA history to score at least 40 points and grab 20 rebounds while shooting 80% or better from the field, joining John Drew and Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bob Pettit.
He also joins Chamberlain and Hall of Famer Allen Iverson as the only Sixers to average at least 30 points in a season.
“We haven’t seen a guy like this in the history of the league who has this kind of power and skill,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said about Embiid. “He’s able to score on all three levels effortlessly. He’s an amazing player and it will be interesting to see what teams do in the playoffs to try to slow him down.”
Embiid is the second NBA player this season with 10 games of at least 30 points and 15 rebounds. He’s averaging 40 points and 15 rebounds over the last four games.
“I think the biggest thing with me is that I feel comfortable with it because I feel like I didn’t force anything,” Embiid said. ”I feel like I just played within the flow of the offense.
“Before we had James [Harden], obviously, I had a much larger role in the offense whether it was playmaking or scoring. Since we added him, I try to share the load, which has been great. Great stats and I guess I’m happy about it.”
Maxey the three-point shooter
Tyrese Maxey has extended his streak of games with multiple three-pointers to five after going 2-for-6 against the Pacers. The Sixers’ second-year guard is shooting 49.6% from three since the All-Star break, which ranks first in the league over that time for players with at least 120 attempts.