The Joel Embiid Game: Five Observations from Sixers 115, Lakers 109

Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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Turns out Joel Embiid was right when he described his minutes restriction as “fucking bullshit.”

And myriad fans and media were also right when pointing out that early-season Joel just didn’t seem to be 100% fit.

So now you see what a healthy and focused Embiid can do, which is 46, 15, 7, and 7.

46, 15, 7, and 7…

The last person to do that was.. nobody! There’s no stat line on basketball reference that matches those parameters.

Now, they didn’t record blocks back in Wilt Chamberlain’s day, so I’m sure that Wilt hit those numbers at some point. And you do find lines of 46/15/7 for guys like Hakeem Olajuwon and Rick Barry, but the point stands – Joel was outrageous last night.

I always like to look for a number that nobody is really talking about, and the one that jumps out from this game is “2,” just two turnovers for Joel last night. That ties a season low, which he matched in a win against Atlanta, when he went for 21, 12, 6, and 3.

That tells me that he was locked in mentally. No forced passes, no wasted possessions at the rim, no settling for 15-foot jumpers. He just seemed so much more composed in this game, and that also improves with physical conditioning. When your body lags, your mind lags, but Jojo was dialed in entirely.

If we’re looking for a his best play from last night, take your pick. I think the two looks that he had down low, late in the fourth quarter, are the obvious choices:

I feel like I abuse the word “assertive,” but I don’t know how else to describe this play. Embiid knows exactly what he wants to do to Julius Randle when he receives the ball, getting the Lakers’ power forward to leave his feet before sliding back to the basket. That bucket gave the Sixers a lead that wouldn’t be relinquished.

He did the same thing about two minutes later, posting up Randle further from the basket but recognizing the overplay and immediately swinging through to the rim:

It’s just elite footwork and recognition there.

Pure numbers aside, I just think Joel showed total concentration last night. He wants the ball down low in clutch situations and he’s been getting it done when those opportunities present themselves.

 

1) JJ Redick

11 points on 4-15 shooting and 0-8 from three.

I feel like Redick is becoming the Sixers’ Alshon Jeffery, the big-name free agent on a short-term deal who was brought in to fix a glaring offensive problem. He’s shown some flashes but isn’t putting up huge numbers despite helping his team in other ways.

Brett Brown keeps Redick on the floor in the fourth quarter because he’s always a threat to shoot, and that spaces out other teams and keeps them honest. It’s like Jeffery being guarded by the defense’s best cornerback. Nelson Agholor gets a chance to snag more catches. Dario Saric and Robert Covington get more open looks.

Redick had a rollercoaster fourth last night, hitting a finger roll to make it a 112-104 ballgame. Later, he had a blocked three-point attempt that lead to a Laker run out to cut the lead to four. With 0:24 remaining, he hit 1 of 2 free throws to extend the lead to six.

So he hasn’t been lighting the world on fire, and I don’t know what his Sixer future is considering the new Covington contract, but expect him to be on the court in those situations, no matter what kind of game he’s having.

 

2) Give that man a raise

Speaking of Cov, he’s reportedly about to get a four-year, $65 million dollar deal.

Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the story. Here’s a guy who was claimed off the scrap heap and developed into a high-level NBA player. In a world where guys like Kent Bazemore and Allen Crabbe are worth $18m per year, it’s just refreshing to know that a guy like Covington earned every single dollar that he’s about to be given.

I thought last night might be a statement game for him, considering the news, but RoCo was quietly effective, going for 12 and 6 on 5-9 shooting and hitting 2-5 from three.

One of those was a monstrous late game swish to put the Sixers up 110-104:

That’s off a broken play.

Best part is JJ Redick knowing that the shot is good when the ball isn’t even close to the rim:

 

3) Richaun Holmes and the bench

Amir Johnson was the first big off the bench for the second game running. He finished with 0 points and a block in 9 minutes. Richaun Holmes made a cameo and added 0 points and 1 rebound.

The rest of the bench combined for 21 points, with a nice third quarter burst from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who ultimately shot 4-10 and 1-6 from three-point range. Justin Anderson went 1-4 overall.

They still need much, much more in this department. Legitimate bench contribution, or a few made shots from Redick, would have put this game away early.

 

4) Guilty by association

I don’t understand the hate for Lonzo Ball.

Why, because his dad is an asshole?

Because his brother got caught shoplifting?

Do those things have something to do with Lonzo directly, or do we just want to see the collective failure of his family and the Big Baller Brand?

I get the on-court scrutiny. Ball was a high draft pick. Ben Simmons blowing past him for a dunk tells Sixers fans, “hey our rookie is better than yours.” T.J. McConnell doing it says, “hey, our undrafted point guard is better than your #2 overall pick.” That’s player vs. player, team vs. team, the NBA obsession with making comparisons of any sort.

Going down that road, yeah, Sixers fans should want Lonzo to fail because they don’t want the Lakers to be good. But to rag the kid for shit he didn’t do or didn’t say is a little weak to me. Lonzo has been mostly quiet and respectful while his dad runs around like an idiot.

That said, he’s got a long way to go:

 

5) Laker throwback uniforms

They killed my eyes. Not sure why.

I think it was the clash of the light blue against the dark blue on the Lakers’ floor. If you’re partially colorblind, like I am, you know that certain shades are a pain in the ass to differentiate. The Lakers’ throwbacks had two shades of blue and yellow, juxtaposed against two different shades of blue and yellow on the floor.

Speaking of bad juxtapositions, how did Bryan Colangelo end up sitting next Jimmy Goldstein?

 

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5 Responses

  1. I was yelling NBA Jam phrases in my living room last night as I simultaneously was plucking my Lonzo Ball doll with pins.

    Simmonds and Embiid are literally Scorpion and Sub-Zero

  2. Cuz talking over/under championships at 5.5 and he’s taking the over. WTF Philly hasn’t had 6 championships in the last 40 years!!!

  3. Yes, Lovar Ball is such a flaming asshat that I want to see Lonzo and the entire Ball family fail…Childish on my part sure, but arrogance is my No. 1 pet peeve as far as personality traits go and Lavar has that in abundance. To hell with that guy.

  4. I made a comment to friends that I have nothing against Lonzo, but Lavar is an asshat. The problem is that Lavar isn’t on the court, and people are trying to take their hatred out somewhere. It doesn’t belong on Lonzo. In fact, he belongs in the D-League until he can figure out his game. He doesn’t need to be flaming out under the lights of LA. That could be the worst-possible situation for him.
    Either way…just glad it’s not happening here. Even if Fultz never sees a minute of playing time, it will be a better experience than the trainwreck happening in LA.

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