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Wow. Just… wow.

That’s all I could say after watching Joel Embiid put up one of the greatest individual performances in the history of the NBA. The Philadelphia 76ers big man finished Sunday night’s game against the Utah Jazz with a career-high 59 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, and seven blocks, becoming the first player in league history to record at least 50/10/5/5 in a single game in the process.

It was a remarkable and historic performance from one of the most talented 7-footers who’s ever stepped on a basketball court, and the Sixers needed every bit of it just to squeak out a win and climb back to .500. But that’s the problem, and it’s one the 76ers have no solution for until James Harden returns from his right foot injury.

Joel Embiid makes NBA history with 59-point masterpiece

It’s not often you get to say you witnessed one of the greatest individual performances in the history of a sport, but that’s exactly what Embiid accomplished on Sunday night.

The All-NBA center flirted with a quadruple-double against the Jazz and finished with 59 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, and seven blocks. He shot 19-of-28 from the field and 20-of-24 from the line to lead the Sixers to a much-needed 105-98 victory.

Embiid was utterly unstoppable from the opening tip. He created open looks in the mid-range off the dribble, bullied Utah’s big men at the rim, and knocked down clutch shot after clutch shot in the fourth quarter, all while getting double-teamed for most of the game.

The final box score is staggering, but the numbers down the stretch are even more so. In 11 fourth-quarter minutes, Embiid scored 26 of Philadelphia’s 27 points and blocked five shots. It was essentially 1-on-5 for the entire fourth quarter, and Embiid still found a way to will his Sixers to a crucial win. Oh, and this all came just 24 hours after he torched the Atlanta Hawks for 42 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two blocks, and two steals in 40 minutes.

Embiid could barely stand up straight by the end of the game as he paid homage to the Jimmy Butler meme from the 2020 NBA Finals. It was, quite simply, a one-man masterpiece we might never see again, but that’s exactly the problem.

Embiid exposed the Sixers’ most concerning flaw

Joel Embiid puts up a finger during a game against the Jazz.
Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on against the Utah Jazz | Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Why Isn’t James Harden Playing for the Sixers, and When Will He Return to the Court?

OK, so Embiid put up a historically dominant performance and willed the 76ers to a much-needed win to improve to 7-7. What could be the issue with that?

Well, this Sixers team is gravely flawed, and Embiid’s breathtaking performance on Sunday night only accentuated that fact.

Embiid finished the game with a plus/minus of +25 in 36 minutes. In the 12 minutes in which he was sitting on the bench, the Sixers were outscored by 18 points. Embiid may as well have been the only Philadelphia player on the floor in the fourth quarter, as he scored 26 of the team’s 27 points and saved the game on the other end with five blocks in the final frame alone.

Tyrese Maxey finished the game with 18 points on 8-of-24 shooting, while no one else on the roster scored more than eight points. Embiid scored more than half of the Sixers’ 105 points in the win, and they still nearly lost!

This is simply not sustainable over the course of an 82-game season. Embiid’s body won’t hold up if the 76ers need historic performances from him just to squeak out wins on their home court. You could tell how gassed he was, both physically and emotionally, by the end of the game on Sunday night, and that’s not a sight you want to see if you’re a Sixers fan.

After the game, Embiid said the 76ers are “starting to find our way” following their 5-7 start, but I’m not so convinced. Their best player is starting to find his way, sure, but the Sixers are more reliant on Embiid’s greatness than any other team in the NBA is on their star.

Harden better find a way to get back on the court soon, because Embiid isn’t going to last much longer playing Superman for this Clark Kent-level team.

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