Should Joel Embiid play tonight in Milwaukee?
I have no clue. He played 36 last night and Brett Brown trusted him to stay in the game with three fouls, so I feel like they’re giving Jo the benefit of the doubt and trusting his instincts more than ever. Winning in Milwaukee is more important than winning in OKC, but if you sit Joel and get him ready for Wednesday at Brooklyn and Friday vs. Miami, I think that’s more than reasonable at this point in the season.
But back to last night’s game, which was highly entertaining – wild dunks, lead changes, and Russell Westbrook kind of acting like a tool in the fourth quarter. It felt like a rivalry game.
Anyway, just too many brain farts for the Sixers when it mattered most. They only turned it over 14 times but committed 26 personal fouls, some of which were obviously Thunder home cooking. Defensively, they struggled on the pick and roll and couldn’t get the stops when it really mattered, fighting back to tie the game at 101 before finally running out of steam.
And they wasted a good shooting night in the loss – 50% from the field and 37.9% from three, though Robert Covington and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot did not have great games. I had this chalked up as a loss when the road trip began, but considering how they played in San Antonio and considering how they came out last night, I think fans are justified in feeling disappointed with the result.
1) A “man’s gym”
Similar to the first OKC game, the Sixers just got killed on the offensive glass last night.
Steven Adams had 10 of the Thunder’s 17 offensive boards from 47 missed shots. He had five in the first quarter alone.
Coming into the game, Philly was #1 in the league with a 52.9 total rebounding percentage and #13 with a 78% defensive rebounding mark. OKC had a league-best 28.4% number on the offensive glass.
Last night, Philly finished with a 62.2% defensive rebound percentage, which was one of their worst numbers of the season. Only four times have they given up more offensive boards than they did last night, and one was the triple overtime loss to OKC.
But it was the percentage, 37.8%, which makes the number look even worse. OKC was about 9 percentage points above their season average last night and just crushed the Sixers with back-breaking second efforts.
2) The worst foul of all time
Joel Embiid picked up his third foul around 8:34 in the second quarter:
— NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) January 29, 2018
They looked at this to see if it was a flagrant foul when I don’t think it was a foul at all. It’s an inadvertent clash of heads, no high elbow, no swing through, no cleverness in trying to force contact with the opponent’s arms.
I don’t get it.
Let’s see what Terrell Owens has to say:
— Terrell Owens (@terrellowens) January 28, 2018
That counts as a turnover, so keep that in mind when you look at Joel and Ben’s numbers every night. They usually get at least one shitty call that goes against them.
There was a similar situation around 7:00 in the third when Justin Anderson took a headbutt to the face, then an elbow to the schnoz in the same sequence, which was actually called a foul. I think the refs got the elbow there, but left the head-to-head contact alone, which contradicts the way they called it the first time around.
That’s all we’re asking for, just a bit of consistency. Contact from Joel is always going to look worse than it probably is simply because he’s a large, 7’2″ man.
Speaking of being large and 7’2″, did that give Jo the advantage when he obliterated Russell Westbrook?
Watch this over and over again:
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 28, 2018
Looks like Russ does get his feet set outside of the restricted area, but he’s kind of leaning backwards a bit. The size mismatch makes the contact look minimal, compared to, say, Embiid trying to dunk over Adams instead. I think that’s part of the reason why he got the benefit of the doubt there. It was probably easier to just swallow the whistle and say that it’s a 7 footer dunking over a smaller guy.
Plus, it’s not like Westbrook hasn’t been on the other end of a posterization (about a thousand times before), so let’s move it along here.
4) Rolling right along
I mentioned the pick and rolls earlier.
It was 104-101 in the fourth and OKC ran two in a row to basically blow the game open again:
Amir Johnson leaves his feet and Dario Saric just doesn’t do a great job of contesting Adams at the rim on the first bucket.
But on the second, with Embiid in the game, he tries to sag to the elbow or “zone” the play, and OKC actually throws a third guy into the mix, setting a back screen and sealing off Joel for Westbrook to lob it up to Adams:
Tough to defend there, because TLC is either stepping up to take Westbrook or getting destroyed by Adams. Saric has Jerami Grant to account for and Covington is taken out of the play by the screen.
5) Doris Burke
The bar isn’t that high, but it’s clear to me that Doris Burke does more prep and homework than pretty much every other NBA color commentator out there.
She spoke about the Sixers turnover issue as if she had actually read some of the things written about it. She even mentioned local media write ups and reports when talking about the Sixers’ identity and Brett Brown’s assertion that his team isn’t going to be slowing the pace or walking the ball up the floor.
So she actually pays attention, whereas somebody like Reggie Miller is… I don’t know. I don’t know what he’s doing.
That’s not to be confused with her actual commentary, which can be goofed up by the instance last night where she talked about Westbrook not getting a foul call and referenced him being the league MVP. What the hell does being the league MVP have to do with getting foul calls? The play in question absolutely was a foul (Embiid actually got him twice), but it’s a foul because it’s a foul, not because he’s a superstar and deserves the whistle.
Anyway, still better than Reggie and Van Gundy and whomever else they put on television these days.