Embiid channelled his inner Bill Russell in 'monster' defensive performance

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Joel Embiid looked to channel his inner Bill Russell as he helped the Philadelphia 76ers edge out the Memphis Grizzlies 110-105 on Thursday.

Embiid could not get going in the first half, shooting two-for-14 – his joint-worst showing across the first two quarters of a game.

Indeed, he only shot seven-of-25 from the field through the game, but he turned on the style defensively.

Embiid stepped up in the second half to finish with 27 points, 19 rebounds and six assists.

He also added a steal and six blocks, while 17 of his rebounds were defensive.

"For me, defense is more important for me than offense," Embiid told reporters.

"I could not make any shots, especially the ones I usually make. But, defensively, I thought I had to be Bill Russell, to be able to kind of balance it out."

The late, great Russell – who died last year – was integral to the Boston Celtics dynasty that won 11 NBA championships between 1956 and 1969.

"Every single night I try to be as good of a defender as I can," added Embiid.

"But I think there's a pattern with myself where if you look at most of the games where I have bad shooting nights, I just can't make the shots that I usually do. I go from having a good defensive game to having an amazing defensive game.

"That's part of it. When you're not contributing offensively you've got to find a way, making your team-mates better. So defensively, just being a monster. It was a little bit more of a focus on that end tonight."

Fortunately for Embiid, he was not the only star player to have an off-colour performance from an attacking standpoint, with Grizzlies talisman Ja Morant finishing with 15 points.

James Harden, however, was on his game, top scoring with 31 points while adding seven rebounds and as many assists for the Sixers.

"As much as you don't want it to happen, it's part of basketball, not making shots. We were resilient, and we fought and fought and fought and gave ourselves a chance," Harden said.