76ers looking to find ways to spark Joel Embiid domination vs. Celtics in Game 2

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) looks to pass against Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker (8) and center Enes Kanter (11) in the first half in game one of the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at The Field House.
Ashley Landis/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers’ Game 1 loss to the Boston Celtics on Monday night has been regarded by many as a missed opportunity, especially when considering the team didn’t take advantage of its No. 1 advantage, Joel Embiid.

The All-Star center has the makings to dominate the undersized Celtics in their first-round series, and it looked as though he would be well on his way on Monday. In the first quarter alone, he was 5-of-5 from the field with 11 points.

But a combination of disorganization and sloppy play made Embiid more of a non-factor down the stretch, as he posted just 15 additional points over the final three quarters while taking fewer shots than three of his teammates.

That’s not a formula for success, especially after he bulldozed his way through Boston’s defense at the start.

Following the loss, Embiid said that he had to be better, that he needed to carry the Sixers’ offense, something that his head coach, Brett Brown, appreciated.

“That’s what we need from him. I respect it very much,” Brown said. “It’s the partnership that I have with him. I’ve coached him since he’s come into the league. Trying to help him achieve what he’s seeing he feels that he has to do.”

“I don’t see this being a mutually exclusive responsibility. I very much respect his words, I believe what he says and what he genuinely feels and he should [feel that way].”

But his supporting cast didn’t do him many favors.

Philadelphia committed 18 turnovers compared to Boston’s seven, many of them coming while trying to force the ball down low to Embiid.

“Joel is a huge focal point for us. He creates a lot of attention when he’s out there playing when he has the ball in his hands,” forward Tobias Harris said on Tuesday. “We have to get him some easier looks, it’ll only come from us being more organized and having a good flow.”

For that to happen, though, the turnovers have to stop.

“Turnovers were a big focal point of the game. It led to too many points on their end. The reason for it? I think we were rushing a bit,” forward Tobias Harris said. “Trying to figure out how to maneuver through some of their defensive schemes. Just our organization as a whole offensively wasn’t great. Our spacing wasn’t where we wanted it to be.”

“That hurt us.”

Extra salt in the wound came from knowing that if they were able to effectively feed Embiid just a bit more, they could very well be holding a 1-0 series lead instead of trailing.

“If we’re able to get some higher-percentage looks, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” Harris added.

While the players are vowing to be smarter with the ball, head coach Brett Brown is honing in on the geometry of his offense, looking for the best possible angles to get the ball down low to Embiid while kickstarting the 76ers’ offense.

That means moving away from facilitating from the wings come Game 2, which is Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. ET.

“When the ball gets to the wing, they bend you over, they smother you with pressure, they bring three other players from one side of the floor… and the person guarding Joel… smothers him from that angle,” Brown said. “The large majority of our turnovers came from the wing to the post. From the top of the post, you get a little bit more freedom, a little bit more opportunity.”

“Anything that’s slow, anything that’s static, that’s easier for them to guard Joel Embiid… It doesn’t help anybody. It doesn’t minimize the touches or the frequency that we want him in the paint area. It’s just how are you going to do it?”

 

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