Joel Embiid worked to get position in the post against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night, and sometimes he did score with ease. But most times, the Celtics made it difficult for Embiid to score around the paint.
Celtics big man Al Horford was the primary defender against Embiid, and he did a good job of battling with him down low. Horford didn’t let Embiid turn toward the hoop easily for buckets, and though Embiid scored 23 points, he shot 9-of-22 from the field.
The Philadelphia 76ers lost 112-109 against the Celtics, and they haven’t defeated the Celtics in the regular season since January 18, 2018.
Embiid and the Sixers have regularly struggled against the Celtics because of Boston’s quality defense. Aside from the Sixers starting the third quarter on an 18-4 run, their offense was average for most of the game.
Despite the Sixers picking up a scorer in Tobias Harris at the trade deadline, Embiid is still the focal point of this offense. But with Embiid struggling against the Celtics, so did the rest of the Sixers’ offense.
One thing the Celtics did well against Embiid was that they forced him to catch passes around the mid-post instead of closer to the block. As the Celtics did this, Embiid wasn’t able to get the position in the post he wanted. With the Celtics forcing him to play farther away from the post, he couldn’t turn against players and score as easily.
The video below shows Embiid working against Horford with just over 30 seconds left in the game. Embiid didn’t get good position down low, and he was forced to take a bad shot that wasn’t close enough to the hoop. Horford took away Embiid’s spin well on this possession, and Embiid couldn’t draw a foul.
Though Embiid didn’t dominate in the post, he also took too many 3-pointers. He shot 2-of-8 from the 3-point line; he averaged 29.7 percent from the 3-point line before Tuesday’s game.
With Embiid struggling to get into a consistent flow, some other players on the team didn’t play well, either. Harris scored 10 points, and he missed all six of his 3-pointers. JJ Redick shot 4-of-11 from the field and scored 16 points. The Sixers also didn’t shoot well from the 3-point line (33.3).
The Celtics have routinely played well on defense against the Sixers — and the Sixers haven’t been able to find answers on offense at a consistent level. In three games against Boston this season, the Sixers have shot an average of 43.1 percent from the field. This game was their best one in terms of field goal percentage, as they shot 48.8 percent.
Even though the Sixers have a new starting lineup full of potential, they’ll have to find ways to beat the Celtics, as the two teams could possibly play in the first round of the playoffs; the Celtics are ranked fourth in the East, and the Sixers are ranked fifth after this game.