Entering a pivotal Game 5 in a 2-2 series against Miami Tuesday night, the Philadelphia 76ers put forth an embarrassing showing in their 120-85 loss to the Heat. There were any number of reasons for the defeat: a team-wide listlessness on defense, stagnant ball movement, Tyrese Maxey looking strangely hesitant offensively, Georges Niang shooting 0-of-6 from three and cosplaying as a traffic cone defensively, etc. However, TNT had some other theories:
“He came out with no energy, distracted, and the team followed.”
Chuck weighs in on the struggles of Embiid and the Sixers in Game 5. pic.twitter.com/ApfjvKKew6
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 11, 2022
Barkley says here, “I said at halftime, Joel was so distracted by this MVP stuff, he came out with no energy, distracted, and the rest of the team followed.” The distracted narrative was something the broadcast was trying to push all night, positing that Nikola Jokic being announced as the league MVP the day before was in Embiid’s head to the extent that it affected his play in a critical playoff game.
I get that “TNT knows drama,” but that is quite the stretch. We’re talking about a guy who recently got over a concussion, is playing with a mask due to an orbital bone fracture, and still has a torn ligament in the thumb of his shooting hand. In the second quarter, Embiid was writhing on the ground in agony because the ball got shoved back into his face:
Maybe any one of those reasons might be why Joel wasn’t his usual MVP self (on a night when he still led the team in scoring on 7-of-12 shooting)?
Here is what Joel had to say when asked about the MVP announcement after the game (courtesy of Kyle Neubeck of The PhillyVoice):
As Embiid alludes to, Jokic winning the award wasn’t any big surprise. The straw poll during the regular season made it appear that things were definitely trending that way. As many voters announced their choices after casting their ballots, it became clear that an inordinate number of the non-publicly declared votes would have to go against Jokic for anyone else to have won.
If Joel had actually been affected at all by the MVP award, it would have been something he already processed weeks ago, not just because Woj tweeted out the final confirmation. The idea that he was so disappointed by losing out on the award that he couldn’t bring himself to focus on the playoff game at hand, when he’s playing through injuries that under normal circumstances should have him sidelined, is utterly ludicrous.
Come up with a new narrative, TNT. The Charmed reruns have more plausible storylines.