Loud and loquacious, Charles Barkley never holds back.
He has no filter, proudly expressing his views on TNT, even if no one else agrees with him. It’s what makes him a great NBA commentator and why Inside The NBA is a must-watch at all times.
Given Barkley’s ability to pontificate, it should come as no surprise that the Hall of Famer has a simple explanation for Philadelphia’s whopping 35-point blowout loss in Game 5 to the Miami Heat on Tuesday — Joel Embiid was upset about not winning the MVP.
Embiid finished second in MVP voting, losing out to Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, who won the award for the second consecutive year. The Sixers superstar big man definitely had a case to win but Jokic had a historically phenomenal season for the Nuggets, keeping the team afloat in a tough Western Conference without his running mates of Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray.
According to Barkley, losing to Jokic was the reason Embiid played so poorly against the Heat.
“When you’re mad about something, it can work both ways. It’s working the wrong way for Joel Embiid tonight.”
Chuck sounds off on Embiid’s first half performance in Game 5. pic.twitter.com/0vg0cspWaG
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 11, 2022
“Joel Embiid is so distracted, in my opinion, by this MVP thing,” Barkley said at halftime of Game 5. “He’s not there tonight. He’s got 6 points but he’s not being aggressive, he’s throwing the ball away – I mean like, I wonder on that team who’s going to go, ‘Hey man, you’re the MVP. We know you’re the MVP. Now go out there and prove it.’ But Ernie, when you are mad about something it can work both ways. And it’s working the wrong way for Joel Embiid tonight. He is so distracted.”
After just scoring just six points in the first half, Embiid finished the game with 12 points and five rebounds in 33 minutes of action. Embiid only took 12 shots, going 7-of-12 from the field and only got to the free-throw line three times. During the regular season, Embiid averaged 11.8 free-throw attempts a game and before Game 5, he was averaging 10.3 free-throw attempts a game in the postseason.
Embiid was also a minus-29 in Game 5, which, according to ESPN Stats & Info, is the worst plus-minus of his postseason career.
So did Barkley have a point? Was Embiid in his feelings about not winning the MVP to put up an all-time stinker of a game?
Embiid talks about his health and not winning MVP
In his postgame press conference, Embiid stated that he believed he had a locked-in mentality heading into Game 5 but that his body simply wasn’t cooperating.
“Coming in, I had the right mindset,” Embiid said. “There’s a lot going on, and sometimes your body won’t allow you to be yourself. In those moments, you just got to keep pushing [and] hope for the best. At this point, it’s all about being there and keep pushing.”
As he alluded to, Embiid is battered and bruised. He’s nursing a thumb injury and is still recovering from a right orbital fracture and concussion that kept him out of the first two games of the series. To make matters worse, Embiid got accidentally hit in the face in the first half by Heat center Dewayne Dedmon and seemed to be in a considerable amount of pain.
Embiid however, downplayed his health and any injuries he may be dealing with. For Embiid, he has to play because he knows a narrative will be created if he doesn’t.
“This is a lose-lose situation for me,” Embiid said. “If I don’t play, I’ll probably get called soft. If I play and I play bad, they’ll probably come up with a bunch of stuff like, he’s just not good enough.”
The media’s narrative about him was a key talking point for Embiid. When asked about his thoughts about Jokic winning the MVP over him, Embiid spoke at length about not winning, the voting process for the award and how he’s now just focused on winning an NBA championship.
“This is something I knew weeks ago, even probably two weeks before the season ended, after those games against Denver and Milwaukee, and when [ESPN’s Tim Bontemps] did his straw poll or whatever. I just knew it wasn’t going to happen.
“Obviously, congrats to Nikola, he deserved it, he had an amazing season. There’s no right or wrong, there [were] a lot of candidates. It could have gone either way. Giannis [Antetokounmpo] [or] Devin Booker, being on the best team in the league. So I guess every year it’s all about whatever you guys decided, whatever fits the narrative as far as who’s going to win.
“I go back to what I heard on a podcast. [The Ringer’s] Bill Simmons basically saying, it sounded like he had a grudge against [Rockets rookie Jalen Green.] Saying ‘F Jalen Green.’ If you’re going to allow these types of people to vote on these awards, that’s not fair.
“What if Jalen Green was in position to earn a supermax [contract], or I don’t know, an All-Star appearance? You’ve got someone sounding like that and has a lot of power, he can sway a lot of other media members. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s okay.
“That’s really the only thing I’ll say about [NBA awards.] I’m not mad. The last two years in a row I’ve put myself in that position, it didn’t happen. It’s almost like at this point, it’s whatever. Whatever happens, happens.
“Last year I campaigned about it, this year I answered questions when I was asked, and the next, you know, few years before I retire it’s almost like, I don’t know what I have to do to win it. To me, it’s just whatever.
“But it’s really time to really put all my energy into the bigger picture, which is to win the whole thing.”
So was Embiid actually upset about not winning the MVP?
Clearly, Embiid has some thoughts about not winning the MVP.
But overall, it doesn’t sound like him not winning factored into Embiid’s atrocious performance against the Heat in Game 5. He was just banged up and that just factored into how he played.
“I wasn’t aggressive tonight,” Embiid said. “I just got to have that mentality for four quarters. I like our chances to come back here.”
76ers vs. Heat schedule, TV channels
Here is the complete schedule for the second-round series between the 76ers and Heat.
|Date||Game||Time (ET) / Result||TV channel|
|May 2||Game 1||Heat 106, 76ers 92|
|May 4||Game 2||Heat 119, 76ers 103|
|May 6||Game 3||76ers 99, Heat 79|
|May 8||Game 4||76ers 116, Heat 108|
|May 10||Game 5||Heat 120, Sixers 85|
|May 12||Game 6||7:00 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|May 15||Game 7*||TBD||TBD|