PHILADELPHIA — Joel Embiid fought hard for inside position in the fourth quarter Wednesday night.
The Philadelphia 76ers star got his arms and legs tangled with Boston Celtics center Daniel Theis. Embiid crashed to the ground. His teammates sprinted to him to help him up.
It was the least they could do. Embiid had carried them all night.
The center scored 42 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to propel the Sixers to a 117-109 win over the Celtics.
"As a team," Embiid said, "we did a good job, especially at the right times."
The Celtics (8-5) played without standout forward Jayson Tatum because of COVID-19 protocols. The Sixers (10-5) were without starting guard Seth Curry for the same reason.
Tobias Harris complimented Embiid with 22 points. Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 26.
The teams will meet again Friday at Wells Fargo Center. The Celtics have until then to figure out a way to guard Embiid.
It was clear Boston had no one who was up to that task Wednesday.
"They've got some pretty good players," Embiid said of the Celtics. "I guess I did just a better job."
Embiid sank 12 of 19 shots and added two assists, two steals and a block.
He went 17 for 21 from the foul line. The Celtics took 20 foul shots as a team. It was Embiid's 10th career game of at least 40 points and 10 rebounds. The only Sixers players with more are Charles Barkley (13 games) and Wilt Chamberlain (31 games).
"I love how (Embiid) played tonight," Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. "He kind of let it come to him. Every time they double-teamed, he made the pass. Every time they didn't, he attacked."
The performance continued Embiid’s MVP-caliber season. He’s averaging 26.4 points and 11.3 rebounds.
"Night after night, he controls the game," Harris said. "He controls the paint. He's the guy we can go to give us buckets and make the right play."
But Embiid could use some help. The Sixers lack the consistent scorer needed to take the pressure off Embiid. He not only scored 42 on Wednesday, but he had 45 in a 137-134 win over the Miami Heat last week.
It’s not just realistic to expect Embiid to score more than 40 for the Sixers to beat quality Eastern Conference opponents.
Unless the Sixers add a consistent secondary scorer, Philadelphia is in danger of squandering an Embiid career year.
Embiid, however, is optimistic about the team's chances with the current roster.
"We have a great future," he said. "We've got a bunch of young players. We've got a great group of guys, but we still have to take it to the next level. We've got a long way to go."