2. Joel Embiid’s MVP progression
This has been another difficult postseason for Joel Embiid. The Nets hounded him with double and triple-teams throughout the first round, only for him to suffer another freak injury in Game 3 when a player fell on his knee.
Embiid suffered a grade two LCL sprain, which typically takes 4-6 weeks to heal. He took less than two weeks. The knee has clearly limited Embiid’s aggression at various points during the Boston series, but in Tuesday’s Game 5 he was in full MVP form.
Embiid scored 33 points on 23 shots, picking his spots wisely on offense and operating at the backbone of a high-level postseason defense. His four blocks don’t even tell the full story — Embiid handled switches, deterred every Celtic from venturing inside, and was flat-out sensational on the defensive end. His competitive spirit has never been in doubt, but Tuesday was a solid reminder of how much Embiid wants to win. He will put in the effort where other stars won’t.
Game 5 also highlighted Embiid’s greatest areas of growth. After the game, he noted that dominating the game isn’t always about scoring. It’s about making the right plays and trusting teammates. We may never see a better example of that than Embiid’s game-winning kickout to Harden for the 3 to end Game 4, but it was on full display Tuesday as well. He’s more willing to empower teammates and let the game come to him than ever before.