Joel Embiid Hits 50, Says He’s Suffering From Bell’s Palsy, As Sixers Topple Knicks

Joel Embiid scored a playoff career-high 50 points, while his prediction for the 76ers coming back from down 2-0 in the series is now one step closer, as Philadelphia defeated New York 125-114, cutting the series to 2-1. This is the first time a 76ers player scored 50 in an NBA playoff game since Allen Iverson vs. the New Orleans Hornets (55 points; April 20, 2003).

Joel Embiid
Matt Slocum/AP Photo

Furthermore, this is the most points scored against the Knicks in the playoffs since Michael Jordan had 54 vs. New York in Game 4 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals. 

Embiid attempted 21 free throws (19-for-21), which is more than the entire Knicks’ team (13-for-19).

“I’ll look at it again, and I’ll send my clips in like I do every game,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau told NBA reporters. “They’ll say ‘marginal contact’. Then they’ll say marginal contact on Embiid and he’ll be at the line 21 times. That’s just the way it works.”

Jalen Brunson made 10 of the Knicks’ 13 free throws, while having his best game of the series so far, as he scored 39 points on 13-of-27 shooting. To point out, through the first two games of the series, Brunson shot 16-of-55 from the field. 

At the 4:35 minute mark in the first quarter, there was a controversial dirty foul play that occurred under the basket, in which Knicks center Mitchell Robinson injured his right ankle going up for a layup attempt. This was a result of Embiid, who was on the floor, grabbing at his right leg.

The Knicks players immediately came over to confront Embiid, who let his emotions get to him, as he was still noticeably frustrated about the play before when the referee did not call a foul on Robinson during contact made on a three-point attempt.

“They want to bring the physicality. We can get physical, too, and we are,” Embiid said postgame about the Knicks. “So I mean, it goes both ways. I get bumped all over the place, and I just keep playing.”

Mitchell played a total of 12 minutes and was noticeably affected by the injury throughout the game. The foul by Embiid was deemed unnecessary, as Robinson was in the air, and was upgraded to a flagrant one penalty; many would argue that it could have even been counted as a flagrant two foul, which would have resulted in an ejection.

Josh Hart, who scored 20 points, came to the defense of his teammate Robinson after the game, calling the play “reckless” by Embiid. “I’m all for tough fouls or playoff fouls, but that’s something that can put a guy out for a significant amount of time.”

After trailing by three at halftime, the 76ers came out in the second half taking control and holding the momentum the rest of the way. Tyrese Maxey scored 10 of his 25 points during the first five minutes in the third quarter, “That’s kind of how the series has been going,” The 2023-24 NBA’s Most Improved Player of The Year Winner said postgame. “You know back-and-forth, back-and-forth the entire game. Whoever can come up with stops at the end and scores at the end wins the game.”

Maxey’s superstar running mate, Embiid, had a historic Game 3 performance, as he finished with 50 points off of 13-of-19 FG shooting and 5-of-7 3P shooting. 

There was some concern earlier in the series, when the 76ers big man appeared to tweak his surgically repaired knee (meniscus injury) in Game 1, which cost him to miss two months during the regular season. Then not to mention, it was reported following Game 3 that Embiid has also been dealing with a mild case of facial paralysis called ‘Bell’s Palsy.’ 

“I think it started a day or two before the Miami game, [play-in game; April 17],” Embiid said. “My body was just not feeling it, and obviously lately I don’t know… I’m sure if you Google the symptoms you know what it is.” 

Bell’s Palsy is also known as idiopathic facial paralysis and is defined as an unexplained occurrence of facial muscle weakness, which affects one side of your face. This condition explains the recent viral videos of Embiid not being able to blink his left eye, as it is a result of damage to a facial nerve, which leads to pain and discomfort occurring on the whole left side of his head. “You know the left side of my face, my mouth, and my eye. So yeah it’s been tough, but I’m not a quitter, so got to keep fighting through anything.”

Embiid will continue to battle through this, as he hopes to build off his 50-point performance heading into the next game. Game 4 will be played in Philadelphia on Sunday, April 28 at 1 pm ET, as the 76ers look to even the series after there was a guarantee made for the seventh-seeded team to come back after a Game 2 loss, “We’re going to win this series,” Embiid told NBA reporters after being down 2-0. “We are the better team.” 

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