Embiid bests Davis in battle of MVP hopefuls as Sixers edge Pelicans

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It is just one game, a chapter in a long book of 82 games.

That said, when potential MVP candidates collide, people have a tendency to pay attention, to scrutinize more.

Anthony Davis will certainly hope that people either forget about what happened last night or delete the video of the game.

The New Orleans Pelicans started miserably in a 121-120 loss to the 76ers.

The energy level was non-existent, shot selection was poor, defense was missing in action.

By the time the first quarter was over, the Pelicans dug a 38-23 hole. It was an uphill climb the rest of the way.

You cannot spot a good team that kind of lead, particularly on the road.

Give the Pelicans credit for bearing down, fighting throughout and finally getting in a position to tie and possibly win the game.

Davis was fouled on a 3-point shot attempt, he had a chance to send the game to overtime.

Alas, after sinking two, he missed the one that counted and the Sixers escaped on a night where they have controlled play.

It was unquestionably the worst offensive game of the year for Davis.

He was just 4-of-13 from the field for 12 points. Though he did have 16 rebounds, six assists, five blocks and five steals, he also committed six turnovers in 41 minutes.

Perhaps it was on his teammates to get him more shots.

Then again, it is on Davis for not demanding the ball and being more aggressive on the offensive end.

The problem was Joel Embiid.

The Philadelphia MVP candidate was superb.

He smothered Davis throughout.

Embiid is the rare bad matchup for Davis in the NBA.

He is equally as athletic, taller, bigger, stronger.

The Sixers elected to put Embiid on Davis and the result was obvious. Embiid dominated throughout and simply shut down the Pelicans star. Embiid finished with 31 points and 19 rebounds, overcoming seven turnovers.

New Orleans had a shot because Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore was outstanding, each scoring 30 points while Julius Randle continued his brilliant season with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Niko Mirotic had 13 points and 13 rebounds.

If the season ended today, Moore would be a prime candidate for Most Improved Player in the league.

While he was solid, averaging 12.5 points while shooting 42.5 percent from 3-point range last season, Moore is averaging 16.9 points and shooting 48.5 percent from 3-point range, a brilliant effort. He has scored 30 or more points three times.

If the season ended today, Randle would be the prime candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year award.

Randle is averaging 17.7 points and 8.6 rebounds off the bench while shooting 54 percent from the field, better than most starters in the league. He did start three games, due to injury, but that has not deterred one bit from his superb bench play.

Holiday has had to run the offense in the absence of Elfrid Payton, play heavy minutes, score and defend the best offensive player on the opposition nightly. It is a tall task for he has been up to the challenge. Mirotic now has 11 double-doubles in his 16 games played.

On the season, Embiid had recorded 30 points and 15 rebounds 12 times in 20 games played. By comparison, Davis has done so four times in 15 games played.

Davis did reach the 10,000 point milestone in the game, a testament to his brilliant career. He was not brilliant on this night but he will rebound. Do not be surprised to see him go off in New York against the Knicks Friday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will certainly be in the mix for the league’s best player award as well. You can never ignore Stephen Curry, though he is missing significant time.

As we have stated many times, for the Pelicans to contend in the now seemingly competitive Western conference (see Golden State Warriors slide), Davis has to play at an elite level, like an MVP.

On this night, he was no match for a player that took a huge step forward in the race for the MVP trophy.

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Ken Trahan


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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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