BOSTON – In the latest season comes a disappointing playoff performance, Joel Embiid He decided to adjust his game.
during the Philadelphia 76ers’ Second round loss to Miami HeatHe averaged just 19.8 points per game on 42.6% shooting. He allowed the Heat, through a series of aggressive fronts and denials combined with solid pressure on the ball, to knock him out of the Series. This wasn’t strange either. His numbers often slipped in the playoffs.
Embiid therefore decided that the post would no longer be his. It was very easy for him to double up there, and it was very difficult to get the ball. Instead, it would migrate to the elbows. There, he can get the ball easily and then clear the entire field, making it dangerous to field additional defenders.
“The biggest thing we’ve always had is finding ways for him to get as many easy baskets as he can come up with at game time,” his coach Drew Hanlin said in a September interview.
In the 2021-22 season, Embiid scored 9.8 tackles per game, according to Spectrum II tracking data. This year, that number has dropped to 6.5. Embiid elbows 8.8 times per game, nearly double his mark from last season, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
This move essentially rendered Embiid unguardable. He put together the best offensive season of his career — he averaged 33.1 points per game on a career-best 54.8% shooting percentage — and finally had the home runs MVP he’d been chasing for two years.
But a funny thing happened during the Sixers’ current second round match-up with Boston Celtics: Embiid returned to his old office. He scored 13 times in Game 4, according to Second Spectrum, and finished with 34 points in the overtime series win. On Tuesday, in the Sixers’ stunning 115-103 Game 5 win over the Celtics in Boston — a win in which the Sixers came just one win away from reaching the Conference Finals for the first time since 2001 — he scored 12 times and finished the evening with 33 points.
“The way they guard, when they come in, there’s no place for drive and action,” Embiid said after the win when asked about the uptick in post touches. “Then you know, they bundle me up to make sure I don’t get a hard shot.”
Embiid wasn’t as effective as he would have liked to be on Tuesday — he only shot 10-for-23 — but he hit 12 free throws. A handful of those outings came from his work down on the block, where the Celtics seemed content to let him work head-to-head.
Of course, what makes Embiid so great is that it is able to punish opponents from many locations. Take one thing, and it will move on to the next.
Embiid, for example, struggled when he tried to attack the Celtics big man Alhorford One-on-one from the elbow in Game 4, even getting his shot three times. So in Game 5, the Sixers tried something different, especially early on: They went back to their bread and butter, Embiid-James Harden Pick and roll. This forced the 36-year-old Horford to guard in space, an area where he now struggles. With the Celtics reluctant to help out some of the Sixers’ pitchers, Embiid manages to waltz in easy looks to Harden’s bowls.
“This game they played us a little bit differently,” Harden said after the win. “They were kind of caulking the paint to where, you know, Joel got a shot at the free jump.
“We’ve seen literally every defense, from them turning into their big defense on a deep touchdown, to their big defense at a closer point, so it’s just a matter of seeing what they’re doing, what they’re trying to do and then us. [countering]. ”
That’s the secret, which is why Embiid is so close to reaching the Conference Finals for the first time in his career. There is no single defense that throws him at him, no magic scheme to get him out of his rhythm. He can attack a person with one block or elbow. Harden’s presence means he now has a dance partner who can send defenses into a spin at a game of pick-and-roll. the Shooting Therese Maxi And Tobias Harris And De Anthony Meltonand the threat PJ Tucker Glass shattered, meaning defenses could not sell on Embiid, which he said was key to his success in office.
“I think we’ve done a good job of distancing,” Embiid said on Tuesday.
The Celtics are probably going to be more aggressive with their traps in Embiid in Thursday Game 6 in Philadelphia. He’s better than ever at anticipating double teams and reading the word, but the Celtics won’t want to go down with Embiid hitting them. They will probably force some of the round of six players to bury shots.
But Embiid has also reached a point where game plan may not matter, where the only thing the defense can do is force move points. It was his ability to attack the Celtics in multiple ways from multiple positions that had them teetering on the ropes.
He said after Game 5: “It doesn’t matter whether it’s the prop or the nail or wherever on the floor. Just give me the ball I have a good chance of scoring and setting up for my teammates.”
Yaron Weitzman is a FOX Sports NBA writer and author Rise to the Top: The Philadelphia ’76ers and the Most Daring Operation in Professional Sports History. Follow him on Twitter @tweet.
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