SAN ANTONIO — It was a clash of NBA giants Sunday night as Spurs' Jakob Poeltl and Sixers' Joel Embiid battled in the paint.
Embiid would finish the game with 38 points and 12 rebounds in 31 minutes but Poeltl's size and defense made the Sixers big man work for his final stat line in the 115-109 win over San Antonio.
"He's a really good defender," Embiid said. "Especially with the schemes that they have."
Poeltl held his own against Embiid Sunday night.
He poured in a respectable 25 points, four blocks, and 10 rebounds in 39 minutes versus the Sixers in the loss.
"He's great. He does the little things - rebounding," Embiid said. "Even offensively he doesn't have the skill to be shooting jumpers but he's a star in his role."
Poeltl's play has been a bright spot on the season.
Known for just being a defender for most of his NBA career, Poeltl has greatly expanded his offensive game this season.
He currently has scored in double figures in eight of his last nine games played and is averaging a career-high scoring average at 12.8 points per game.
His double-double against the Sixers was his 16th on the season (a career-best) and is shooting 59 percent from the field this season.
"As I’ve always said, I try to do a lot of the little things for the team. I try to be a back anchor on defense," said Poeltl. "I try to crash offensively every chance that I get. I think that’s just part of my role."
Said Poeltl: "My scoring has picked up a little bit this year with a lot of our scoring from the past couple of years being gone from the team."
Poeltl remains one of the NBA's best big men defensively.
At his position, he's second in offensive rebounding (4.1 per game), 11th in blocks (1.6 per game), and first in the league in contested shots (14.4 per game).
"Jakob Poeltl is one guy who brings it every minute that he’s on the court," Gregg Popovich said. "He’s unbelievable and deserves a lot of credit for what he does out there."
His Sunday stat line against the Sixers was the first time a player posted those numbers since Tim Duncan in 2004.
Poeltl is doing much for the Spurs this season and factors into the team's rebuild moving forward. He is showing he can do it all on both ends of the court.
He may not get the recognition he deserves but getting praise from one of the league's best big men is a nice feather in his cap.
"Defensively, he's just being physical," Embiid said. "He's definitely underrated."