Philadelphia's Ben Simmons may be the Sixers that draws the most headlines for his dogfight with Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz for the Defensive Player of the Year award, but Joel Embiid has every intention of forcing his way into the conversation. Against the Milwaukee Bucks Thursday night, the All-World center reminded fans just how suffocating he could be against an offense.
Quite frankly, it's just not natural for a big man to be able to move so well (Video via Slam Online):
Just look at Joel’s man-to-man defense. (via @TomWestNBA) pic.twitter.com/QbMdKFfp4F
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) April 23, 2021
With the Bucks already holding a double-digit lead over the Sixers late in the first half, Milwaukee forced a switch from Philadelphia as Jrue Holiday looked to attack off the dribble against the slower-footed Embiid. Unfortunately for Holiday and the Bucks, the center was more than up for the challenge.
Embiid went on to block Giannis as the two Eastern Conference heavyweights battled in pursuit of a top slot in the East.
Embiid denied Giannis ❌ pic.twitter.com/WcL9N1oVBM
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 23, 2021
Snuffing out Holiday's initial attempt to blow by him with a crossover dribble, the point guard was forced to retreat back to the arc o reset the action, hoping Embiid would lean into his jersey and be caught off guard by a hard drive towards the basket. The Sixers center not only kept up with the speedy point guard but was strong enough to push Holiday off course and force him to give up the rock. Even when the Bucks got the ball back to Holiday late in the shot-clock, with better positioning near the rim, Embiid deftly avoided two pump fakes and forced an airball on a layup.
Given that Embiid already thinks he should be the clear-cut MVP favorite, it seems he also has his eyes set on the DPOY moniker as well. Rudy Gobert, who?