Joel Embiid’s struggles against Marc Gasol have been well documented, an embarrassing blip for the self-proclaimed “most unstoppable player in the league.”
Those woes continued Monday in Toronto, where Embiid suffered through the worst outing of his career as the Raptors surged late to beat the 76ers, 101-96, in their first meeting since the 2019 Eastern Conference semifinals, a seven-game classic in which Philadelphia’s All-Star center shot just 37% overall.
That was red hot compared to Monday’s rematch, with Embiid failing to score for the first time in 171 career games while bricking 11 shots (three of which were 3-pointers) and three free throws. He became the first NBA player to miss at least 10 shots and two free throws in a scoreless game since Devean George in 2008. He is also believed to be the first NBA player to miss at least 10 shots and three free throws in a scoreless game since Arnie Risen in 1954.
(Embiid is also the first player to go scoreless on an 0-for-11 night since — ironically enough — the Raptors’ Antonio Davis did so against the Chicago Bulls on Feb. 17, 2004.)
Gasol was once again the impetus, using his size and savvy to frustrate Embiid while long-armed teammates like Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby hovered nearby, ready to swoop in with timely help. Embiid at one point attempted to overpower Gasol in the post and nearly knocked himself over in the process as the Spanish veteran stood firm. Embiid ranks eighth in the NBA with roughly 13 paint points per game, but only two of his shots came from that spot, with Gasol blocking both.
It continued an extended nightmare from which Embiid has yet to wake. In addition to last year’s playoffs, he shot just 34.4% in five previous regular-season matchups with Gasol-led teams — roughly 14 percentage points below his career mark of 48.1%.
While Embiid did grab 13 rebounds, the lack of scoring production from their leading scorer proved too much for the 76ers to overcome. In addition to going scoreless, Embiid committed four turnovers, including two in the final 2:35 as Philadelphia squandered a late six-point lead.
Embiid typically isn’t shy about letting opponents know when things are going his way. He was equally ready to accept blame for yet another poor performance against the gritty Gasol.
“I can’t have this type of production,” said Embiid, who denied fatigue was a factor in Philadelphia’s third game in five nights. “I would have never thought I would be here talking about zero points in an NBA game, but it is what it is. Some nights you make shots, some nights you don’t. Some nights you’re hot, some nights you’re cold.”
Said Sixers coach Brett Brown, “I think you give Marc Gasol, a former Defensive Player of the Year, credit. He’s good. It was a long night for Jo.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.