NBA

NBA playoffs 2021: Rivers says Embiid spurred on by MVP snub as 76ers bounce back

By Sports Desk June 08, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said Joel Embiid was spurred on after missing out on the NBA MVP award to produce a "dominant" performance in Tuesday's 118-102 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Embiid posted 40 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and two steals for the top-seeded 76ers, who levelled their Eastern Conference semi-final series at 1-1 in the playoffs.

All-Star Embiid's 40-point haul was a personal playoffs career high as he became the first 76ers player with 40 points in a postseason game since Allen Iverson had 45 in 2003.

Embiid is also the first 76ers player with 40 points and 10 rebounds in a playoff game since Hall of Famer Billy Cunningham in 1970.

Rivers hailed Embiid's display after he finished second to Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic in the MVP race earlier on Tuesday.

"It was awesome," Rivers said during his post-game news conference. "I remember being on the other side of it the night David Robinson got the MVP and we had to play [Hakeen] Olajuwon.

"I was on that spurs team, that didn’t go well for us. Tonight you felt like that was Joel. He was that magnificent and dominant for us early on.

"It was absolutely a team effort but he set the tone for us. That's what he has to do."

Rivers lauded Philadelphia's collective effort, particularly in the second half, stretching their lead from four points to 18 when Embiid was benched at one stage.

"It was huge. You'd think it was the worst time to take Joel out," Rivers said. "We felt we'd need him down the stretch.

"The fact that the second unit, we could wait until seven minutes to put Joel back in and he's come back with an 18-point lead, that was absolutely wonderful."

Rivers reserved special praise for Shake Milton, who contributed 14 points off the bench, sparking the 76ers in the third quarter, as well as George Hill and Matisse Thybulle for their defensive efforts.

The series moves to Atlanta, with Game 3 on Friday.

"It was big because we lost Game 1," Rivers said. "We don't ever want to go down 2-0 in a series. It's 1-1, we have to go to Atlanta and get home court back."

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