The matchup between the 76ers and Knicks Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden went as anyone would expect: A loss for the home team. Despite the Knicks having a fourth-quarter surge, the final 126-111 score was an outcome most would have seen coming even before both teams stepped on the hardwood.
However, there was one matchup that Knicks fans had to love coming into this game -- Mitchell Robinson vs. Joel Embiid.
Robinson, the Knicks' second-rounder that has seen a surge in production lately, did more than just hold his own against the All-Star center. While scoring 14 points (on a few lobs of course) and collecting 13 boards, Robinson also registered a game-high four blocks that included a couple forceful ones on Embiid.
Embiid did go on to score 26 points in the Sixers' victory, but he had to give credit where credit was due.
"He's long," Embiid told MSG's Rebecca Haarlow after the game. "I mean, a couple times I thought I had a shot and he just came up with his long ass arms and blocked it."
At the ripe age of 20, Robinson has ways to go before he reaches Embiid's star status in the league. But Embiid believes he can get to that point if he continues to work hard.
"He's long. That's all I can say," Embiid said. "Obviously can move really well, has a lot of potential. He needs to work on his body, but he's got a chance to be a good big man in this league."
After hearing those words of encouragement, working hard is exactly what Robinson will do.
"I appreciate him saying that for me," Robinson said. "He's been one of the biggest bigs in the league. That's a great honor for me. Makes me want to work even harder, play even harder and just get better."
Head coach David Fizdale has loved what he's seen from Robinson thus far, especially in these recent stretch of games. He commended the "young rook" for going at Embiid head-on, and believes these types of matchups will continue to make Robinson realize what it takes to be a successful big man for years to come.
"From a young rook to go out there and take the challenge against [Embiid] and just, at least, put up a real fight on both ends of the floor, I think that's going to be great for his confidence," Fizdale said. "Every game he just keeps getting a little bit better and a little bit better. I'm scared to see what he's going to be in three years."
Fizdale's claim that Robinson is excelling by the game is backed by his numbers. Over his last five games, the 7-foot-1 rookie has produced 12.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, and is shooting a highly-efficient 74 percent from the field. Also, he is averaging 11.4 points per game this month, a big step up from his 7.1 points averaged in January.
Now, Robinson may not be averaging the 20.2 points Embiid did in his rookie season (in just 31 games I may add). But Embiid is one of many that recognizes the talent Robinson possesses, and more importantly, sees his potential to grow into one of the league's most dominant forces down low.