Embiid Striving to Get Better With Each Game
From the disappointment of a tough performance determination was renewed.
And by week’s end, what we all saw was Joel Embiid in peak form.
The two-time All-Star was back to his signature, game-changing ways – imposing his will at the basket on both ends of the floor, doing so through regular post-ups and ruthless rim protection.
In three appearances against the Sacramento Kings, New York Knicks, and Indiana Pacers – all 76ers’ wins – Embiid ruled. He produced a staggering statistical aggregate of 92 points, 44 rebounds, and six blocks.
During this stretch, the big man missed only four of his 44 free throw attempts. He’d taken that many foul shots combined his previous eight games.
Less than a week removed from a scoreless showing in Toronto, yes, Joel Embiid was once again wrecking the competition. This was no coincidence.
“Since the Toronto game, I changed my mindset,” Embiid said after putting up 32 points and 11 rebounds in Saturday’s 119-116 over the Pacers. “The games prior to that, I had not been as aggressive as I was last year.”
To Embiid, the dip in free throw production was proof.
“[These] last couple games, I have been more physical, and I’ve created more contact, causing whoever is guarding me to react.”
Frequently, those reactions have resulted in whistles. Whether it was against the Kings’ Richaun Holmes or Dewayne Dedmon, the Knicks’ Taj Gibson or Mitchell Robinson, or the Pacers’ tandem of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, Embiid was pretty much able to do what he wanted.
“It’s a mentality,” said Brett Brown. “That is a disposition and a mentality.
“[He] made a statement.”
The positive ripple effects of Embiid’s recent play have trickled down to places less easily measured, too.
Given how frequently Embiid is in the post – he leads the NBA with 8.1 post-up possessions and 8.7 post-up points per game – and how often he’s double-teamed, his ability to make the right passing reads is pivotal to the success of the Sixers’ offense. The skill is just as vital as Embiid rolling to the rack, or getting to the stripe.
Brown sees progress. He used the Knicks game as an example.
“You follow the food chain…and it reminded me of Duncan to Parker to Ginobili to Bowen,” said Brown, referring to how several of his former San Antonio Spurs players would use ball movement from the post to create 3-point looks. “Swing, swing, whack. That’s generated by Joel’s willingness claiming a post. Finding space is the holy grail in our league.”
With a quarter of the season almost in the books, Embiid looks to keep building. Regardless of how last week started, evidence suggests he’s on track.
“The season is about getting better every single game, ramping up to get ready for the playoffs,” Embiid said. “That’s been my approach since the season started. I’m looking to get better every single game. My intensity is going up every single game.”
“Nobody can underestimate the hurt he felt after the Toronto game,” Brett Brown said of Embiid. “We have seen him respond.”
No doubt about it.