Joel Embiid again frustrated with fourth quarter use: “I felt I could’ve done more”

Getty Images
2 Comments

Joel Embiid‘s overall stats from Christmas Day show why he gets some mention in the early MVP discussion — 34 points on 17 shot attempts, plus 16 rebounds.

But 30 of those points and 13 of those shot attempts came in the first three quarters of the game. In the fourth Embiid was 1-of-4 shooting — he got fewer shot attempts than Wilson Chandler or J.J. Redick (both had six, and Redick missed every one of those). It’s been a knock on coach Brett Brown from his critics — and there are a surprisingly large number of them in the Philly fan base — for a long time, that the team gets away from Embiid and its strengths in the clutch.

Embiid felt that way after the loss. From Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“I felt I could’ve done more. The ball didn’t find me in the fourth and in overtime. In those situations, I gotta show up and then also, I gotta be put in the right situations to be able to help the team. I feel like I wasn’t in the right situations. I felt like I could’ve done more. We lost. I put this heavily on me because I know I could’ve done more. The way I was playing, I don’t think they could guard me. They were double-teaming on the first dribbles, but I gotta find a way to adjust with that and just be myself.”

That’s Embiid wanting a more prominent role, to have it be his team. You have to admire that.

But it’s not as simple as “get Embiid the ball more.” Embiid doesn’t really create his own shot (traditional big men rarely do) and that is the challenge for the Sixers.

If you watched the game, you saw the Celtics go to hard doubles on Embiid in the fourth to take the ball out of his hands — then it’s on Embiid teammates to make them pay for it. The Sixers didn’t. Jimmy Butler, J.J. Redick, and Ben Simmons shot a combined 2-of-15 in the fourth quarter and overtime.

This is what playoff basketball is like — teams have time to scheme, to change defenses to take away what their opponent does best, and everyone else has to adjust and step up. Boston’s Brad Stevens did what smart coaches do — take the ball out of the hands of the guy who had 30 points in three quarters and make someone else beat them. Is it Brown’s fault nobody can hit a shot? Or that this team lacks depth?

Maybe the final shot should have been a Jimmy Butler isolation (that has worked for the Sixers before), but Redick got a look from a place on the floor he is shooing 53.8 percent this season, and he’s shooting 57 percent on pull up twos. The cliche is a cliche for a reason — it’s a make or miss league. If Redick had knocked down a shot he hits more than half the time, Brown would get praise for getting his best shooter a good look. Redick missed and Brown gets ripped. People want results, process be damned.

Brown needs to find a way to get Embiid more engaged, particularly late in games. Run some stuff for him that gets him the ball on the move (it can’t be postups or the double teams will come fast). That said, opponents will continue to not let Embiid beat them and dare anyone else to do it, and against the Celtics nobody else did.

Reports: Stephen Curry out ‘weeks’ with knee injury, Warriors hope for return after All-Star Break

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
0 Comments

This is bad news for the Warriors. How bad depends on how the word “weeks” is ultimately defined.

Stephen Curry will be out “weeks” with a knee injury suffered against the Mavericks, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“Weeks” is a vague word, and for the Warriors the difference in Curry being out three weeks (with one of those being the All-Star Break) versus him being out six to eight weeks could be the difference in how long a playoff run the Warriors have.

The Warriors are hoping for a Curry return just after the All-Star break, reports Monty Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Of short-term concern, this has Curry out for the All-Star Game where the fans voted him a starter. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will bump one of the reserves up to a starting spot — likely Ja Morant, who was third in fan voting — and name an injury replacement for the team. The top candidates are Devin Booker (if he returns from injury this week as expected), De'Aaron Fox or Anthony Edwards.

Longer term, the Warriors can’t afford to be without Curry for an extended period.

Curry is averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game, and the Warriors outscore opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court and get outscored by 5.4 when he is off. With the team one game above .500 and struggling to avoid the play-in, an extended absence for Curry is trouble for a Warriors team that has never found its footing this season.

 

Nets reportedly going to sit Kyrie Irving until he is traded

0 Comments

This time it looks like it’s going to happen, the Brooklyn Nets will trade Kyrie Irving (unlike this summer).

Just don’t expect to see Irving on the court for Brooklyn until he’s moved, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

That is at one time a combination of smart, the only real call to make, the Nets wanting to look like they have control over the situation because Irving’s camp already leaked that he was going to sit out the rest of the season if not traded.

Irving did not play Saturday night when the Nets went down by 20 in the first quarter but rallied behind 44 points from Cam Thomas to get a much-needed win.

Four primary suitors have stepped up for Irving: The Lakers (considered Irving’s preferred destination), Suns, Mavericks and Clippers. The question is what do the Nets want back in a trade? If, as most around the league expect, the goal is to remain in the championship picture around Kevin Durant, Brooklyn will prize quality players and depth over draft picks. That’s bad news for the Lakers (the core of their offer is two future first-round picks plus Russell Westbrook) and good for the team down the hall, the Clippers can offer good players — John Wall, Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson, plus young players such as Terance Mann — plus a pick if they need it.

The question for teams: Irving wants a max contract after this summer, similar to the four-year, $198.5 million fully guaranteed extension the Nets would not offer after Irving had 10 weeks or so of not being disruptive and focusing on basketball. Around the league, front offices are very hesitant to get into the Irving business for that long (most thought he would never get more than a two-year offer). Are the four teams above desperate enough for a bold move that ownership would sign off on four years with Irving? Will any of them? Or, like this summer, will Irving find the market not to his liking?

It’s going to be interesting until the Feb. 9 trade deadline.

Watch Shai Gilgeous-Alexander go off for 42, Thunder blow out Rockets

0 Comments

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder took what coach Mark Daigneault called a “bloodthirsty mentality” into Saturday’s rematch with the Houston Rockets.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 42 points to help the Thunder blow out Houston 153-121.

They were disappointed in losing at Houston on Wednesday and responded by setting an Oklahoma City record for points in a game, surpassing the 150 they scored in a win over the Boston Celtics last month.

“Just (wanted to) be the aggressors,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Play our style, our brand of basketball. I think we got away from that a little bit in Houston, and we just wanted to get back on track.”

Daigneault was most pleased that the approach was player-led.

“It wasn’t like I was giving motivational speeches,” he said. “But, you know, as a team, they kind of banded together and decided that they were going to come out and play the way they did. And they were impressive because of it.”

Gilgeous-Alexander set the tone by scoring 20 points in the first quarter.

“I thought tonight was, like, a pretty big leadership statement game for him,” Daigneault said. “I think when you need a response like we needed tonight coming out of the other night, you rely on your guys that are most experienced, who play the most minutes.”

Gilgeous-Alexander shot 7 for 23 from the field in the first matchup, but bounced back to make 14 of 23 field goals on Saturday, falling two points short of his career high. The first-time All-Star also made 14 of 15 free throws and had six assists for the Thunder, despite not playing in the fourth quarter because the Thunder led by 42 points at the end of the third.

Mike Muscala scored a season-high 19 points and Josh Giddey added 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds for Oklahoma City.

“We’re a team that’s growing in confidence, and I think our habits are growing,” Daigneault said. “And I think a lot of things are moving in the right direction.”

Josh Christopher and TyTy Washington each scored 20 points and Tari Eason added 18 for the Rockets.

The Rockets were playing without Eric Gordon (sore right knee) and Jae'Sean Tate (right ankle injury).

Rockets coach Stephen Silas didn’t want to hear it.

“You’ve got to step up in these situations, and we didn’t do it,” he said. “We succumbed to back-to-back, three-in-four, no Eric, no Tate, all that stuff. … We succumbed to it. That’s not – we’re talking about winning habits. That’s not one.”

Oklahoma City led 79-53 at the break after shooting 55% from the field. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 28 points in the first two quarters, a career high for him in a first half.

The Thunder continued to roll in the third quarter, making 16 of 26 field goals in the period to go up 123-81 heading into the fourth.

Oklahoma City set the Thunder single-game scoring record on a 3-pointer by Darius Bazley that banked in during the final minute.

Stephen Curry leaves game with knee injury, MRI Sunday

Golden State Warriors v Denver Nuggets
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
0 Comments

Warriors fans everywhere — not to mention coaching staff and players — are holding their breath.

Stephen Curry left the game against the Mavericks in the third quarter when he was defending Danny Green and the two collided, knocking knees. On the replay, Curry’s knee seems to bend slightly at an awkward angle.

Curry went to the Warriors’ bench, was looked at by the team medical staff, and soon went back to the locker room and did not return. X-rays taken of his knee were negative, but the MRI expected Sunday will be more telling.

Of extra concern is that this is the second injury to that leg in as many games, Curry was able to play through the first one.

Curry is averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game. Of larger concern, the Warriors outscore opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions when Curry is on the court and get outscored by 5.4 when he is off. At 27-26 the Warriors sit seventh in the West.

The defending champs have not lived up to that billing this season, never putting together a consistent run of high-level basketball to show us what we believe they are capable of. If Curry misses significant time (and potentially the All-Star Game) it will be longer before we get to see if these Warriors can pull it together.