DENVER — Joel Embiid walked to the free throw line and somehow, through the overwhelming sea of boos from Nuggets fans inside the Pepsi Center, he heard those three words.
“There were a few ‘Trust the process’ in the arena tonight,” he said.
That’s the confidence Embiid has in himself with the game hanging in the balance. He blocked out the jeers to hear the positive reinforcements that echo his self assurance.
“I’ve always thought that I’m clutch,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 124-122 win over the Nuggets. “I stepped to the line and made my free throws.”
With the game tied 117-117 and 31.5 seconds to go, Embiid scored five of the Sixers' final seven points, all at the line. He shot 5 for 6 in the quarter (missing the first attempt and draining the rest) and a career-high 12 for 14 on the night. The free throws helped seal a win (see Instant Replay) in which he filled up the stat sheet. Embiid finished with 23 points on 5 of 13 shooting from the field, six rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals.
Embiid has been touting himself as clutch since the start of season, even with the admittance in training camp he hadn’t had the chance to prove it yet. Two months into his rookie year, he’s had that opportunity and capitalized on it. The only request Brett Brown would have made was for Embiid to not foul Nikola Jokic while attempting a three with three seconds left, a call Embiid did not agree with (and rightfully so) after the game.
“It’s good because he thinks he’s (clutch) and you’ll never tell him otherwise,” Brown said. “I’m so proud of him. You’d love for him to think about maybe not fouling that guy at the end as part of being Mr. Clutch, but he’s fantastic. He does not back down from the moment."
And just in case the crowd thought they had rattled him, Embiid made a “shush” motion as he walked across the court after draining a free throw to let them know he was unshaken.
“He’s icy. He’s real icy,” Nerlens Noel said. “He steps up there with the ultimate confidence knowing he can knock down those shots and you see the result.”