Embiid responds to criticism on and off the court, Sixers win in Boston
The Philadelphia 76ers’ big man, Joel Embiid, has been under fire lately. After the 76ers beat out the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, TNT NBA co-hosts Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley commented on Embiid’s play. The pair criticized Embiid for not playing aggressively enough this season. O’Neal specifically mentioned he needs to produce more if he wants to reach his true potential. Barkley stated that he wants to see Embiid reach the level of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s reigning MVP who averages about 30 points per game. Instead of firing back, Embiid agreed with the commentary.
Embiid’s Awakening against Boston
Embiid responded well to the criticism.
“I do think they are right,” Embiid stated, regarding O’Neal and Barkley. “I think I need to be more aggressive and look to dominate.”
His response shows that he took their sentiments to heart and was humble. Not many players receive advice from two of the all-time greats in O’Neal and Barkley. Both were aggressive bruisers in the paint themselves during a time when the NBA was less of a shooter’s game. It’s a good sign to see that Embiid is willing to learn and is a student of the game.
On Thursday night, Embiid responded to the criticism with his play on the court. He scored 38 points to go along with 13 rebounds in the 115-109 win against the Boston Celtics. He was under the basket most of the game, drawing double teams and still finishing at the rim. His tough inside presence led to foul calls, allowing him to go 12 for 14 from the foul line.
Embiid also went two for three from behind the three point line, a further demonstration of his confidence. Him letting it fly from deep is more of a response to O’Neal and Barkley, who actually discouraged Embiid from looking for those kind of shots. Instead, they want him to take advantage of his size, footwork, and talent in the paint where he is one of the toughest players in the league to guard. Still, he was an all around problem for Boston, who couldn’t seem to contain him. His great play turned out to be the spark his team needed.
Don’t forget about the Rest of the Team
While Embiid made some noise, his running mate Ben Simmons had a quiet night. Simmons managed only to score seven points the whole night. However, he added eight rebounds, and six assists. There were many times where he was guarded by 6’1″ Kemba Walker, especially when the Sixers were playing big, with Mike Scott or James Ennis on the court. Yet, Simmons failed to take advantage of the size mismatch, which allowed Boston to keep it close.
Josh Richardson might have gotten away with what could have been a foul when he seemingly tackled Boston’s Jaylen Brown during a crucial moment of the game that ended up being a Celtics turnover. The Sixers would capitalize on the no-call and take a two possession lead, a huge momentum swing in the game’s final minutes. Matisse Thybulle chipped in 6 points while playing solid defense on All-star point guard, Kemba Walker. The rookie is starting to adjust well to the NBA game as of late. His improvement is a good sign for the franchise moving forward.
Overall, it seemed to be Embiid who shined the most for Philadelphia. His strong presence on the offensive end as well as on the glass proved instrumental in the victory over Boston. Embiid will likely look to continue his domination as the team faces off against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday. If he can bring the same intensity, the 76ers may move up in the power rankings.
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