February 13, 2019
Sixers big man Joel Embiid has insisted repeatedly that Philadelphia doesn't have a proper rivalry with the Celtics — because, in his words, "They always kick our ass."
That was the case again in a tight 112-109 loss Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, where Embiid unleashed on himself and the referees during a postgame press conference. He referenced his layup in the final seconds (the Sixers needed a three) and a critical no-call in an earlier post battle with Al Horford.
Embiid, obviously frustrated, can probably expect a fine for this one.
Joel Embiid sure knows how to end a post-game presser 🙃 pic.twitter.com/k7o3Evq2Ea— ESPN (@espn) February 13, 2019
As the losses to Boston pile up, it's fair to evaluate whether the usually dominant Embiid is having serious issues handling Al Horford's versatility and veteran savvy. His gripe with the refs (new and old) against the Celtics is a separate issue that goes back to game five of last year's playoff series, when the NBA belatedly admitted the refs missed a fairly decisive Aaron Baynes foul on Embiid in the paint.
Embiid's choice of words certainly won't endear him to referees down the stretch. While he took some blame for the loss, that's understandably going to get drowned out by an F-bomb.
On the other hand, why does that keep happening? The refs may need to take a closer look at what's going on in these key "let them play" situations.
Embiid can get to the line all game long, but if whistles are silent on obvious fouls deep in the fourth quarter, when it's do or die, something's not right. You can argue Embiid initiated contact last night — let them play, right? — but there is no denying he got mugged making his move to the basket.
A play like this is never the lone reason for a loss, and never the most important, but it's blatantly one of them.
The reaction to Embiid's press conference unearthed some rare criticism of his match-up with Horford. Here's a look at what people are saying about the big man's struggles against Boston.
I’m coining the term “compensatory physicality” for @NBA purposes.— Da Bull (@MrTeeLew) February 13, 2019
In a sentence:
When one team is more physically imposing, referees may allow the weaker team to express compensatory physicality.
Al Horford routinely fouling @JoelEmbiid with no calls.
Everyone is focusing way too much on Brett Brown this morning. Let's be honest. Al Horford continually gets into Joel Embiid's head during every matchup. Horford is a problem for Embiid. That's a fact that cannot be denied at this point. #Sixers— The Philadelphia Sports Table Podcast Show (@PhiladelphiaPST) February 13, 2019
@JoelEmbiid needs to practice more finishing throw the contact... Too many times the ball is lost instead a good shot attempt— Omar Talib (@omartalib) February 13, 2019
@JoelEmbiid I know you say no one disrespects you but. These are your stats against @Al_Horford since the playoffs last year :/— Diego Cardoso (@Porchaageese) February 13, 2019
Joel Embiid sendo marcado por Al Horford desde os playoffs no ano passado:— Celtão Brasil #20 🇧🇷 (@CeltaoBrasil) February 13, 2019
14 turnovers cometidos
5 blocks sofridos pic.twitter.com/zJI4eokpvr
By his own admission, @JoelEmbiid strugglesd last nite, but the idea that the C's own him is incorrect. Last 8 gms vs BOS Embiid avg 24 ppg & 13 rpg on 45% shooting. Unfortunatley Embiid is hitting 28% on 3s in those gms & Sixers are 1-7 so he will receive bulk of the blame— Philadunkia (@philadunkia) February 13, 2019
@JoelEmbiid you are 25/70 (36%) against Horford since last years playoff series against Boston. Keep thinking it has nothing to do with him and the pattern will continue.— Wayne Haines (@W_H2O) February 13, 2019
Haven’t always been the biggest fan of how Embiid carries himself, but I LOVE him being blunt and calling out the refs after the game. Forget all that censorship BS, it needed to be said.— KJK (@Ky_Le_bowski) February 13, 2019
Wait did Embiid really cuss out the refs from the podium??? What a legend.— Ben Krasnow (@bckrasnow) February 13, 2019
Did the refs cause jimmy butler to miss that free throw that could have tied it? Or cause embiid to go 9-22?— Matthew Todd (@mtodd2489) February 13, 2019
No foul..... Embiid initiated ALL the contact. He attempted to fool the refs. Embiid- next play...@OfficialNBARefs— RoyalRef (@Royalref) February 13, 2019
The way the standings sit right now, there's every likelihood that these two teams will meet in the first round of the NBA playoffs. A loss by either side will be disastrous in that scenario. Needless to say, the Sixers need to figure out how to turn this matchup around.
And anyone who's upset with Joel, just watch him waving at fish again and you'll fall back in love.
Joel Embiid waving at fish is so pure lmao pic.twitter.com/oPbfdlXN79— Lizzie Petela (@lizziepetela) February 8, 2019