BROOKLYN – 256 players have played at least 1,000 minutes for one team this season. For only one of the 256, can you say the following: His team had at least five points for 100 possessions better at the offensive and at least five points for 100 possessions better defending with him on the ground than the other? they were not with him on the ground.
This player was Joel Embiid.
Additions by Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris this season gave the Sixers a ridiculously talented starting lineup. And with Embiid missing Game 3 of their first round series against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, the rest of that training took over the business.
But Embiid remains the Sixers' "crown jewel", as head coach Brett Brown understands. It is a problem of match for every team in the league and the difference maker for the Sixers at both ends of the ground.
In Match 4 on Saturday, the Nets just could not stand up, Embiid made the difference and the Sixers won 112-108 to take a 3-1 lead.
Line of Embiid: 31 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, six blocks and two interceptions in less than 32 minutes. He was the pivot on both sides of the ground.
The nets were one of five teams that have made more than 40% of their shots in three points this season. But they also led the league with 30.9 points per game marked on orders. The most important offensive weapons of the Nets in this series are Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie, guards who can attack the edge by exploiting the lack of speed of the Sixers on the perimeter.
Brooklyn had several chances to win the match against Embiid. LeVert and Dinwiddie marked it. He also closely examined a Jarrett Allen Dunk when LeVert drove him and made him have it. But although the Philadelphia defense sometimes bent, it was never broken when Embiid was on the ground. And when Jared Dudley was kicked out for pushing Embiid early in the third quarter, Brooklyn lost the only player able to play in center and charge Embiid a spot close to the rim.
"I know these guys are going to pick on me because they want me to pick up," said Embiid about the skirmish that began when he hit Allen with a flagrant foul . "So I have to be an adult on the field, stay calm and not react, I could have reacted, but I felt that my team needed me more than Jared Dudley, I have to stay calm and mature and my work. "
In defense, his job was to help the Sixers stop over. And with Embiid on the ground, Brooklyn scored only 62 points out of 71 possessions. With him, the Nets scored 46 points on just 33 possessions.
At the other end, Brooklyn just could not deal with Embiid in the painting. When they tried to take it into the post, the Sixers sent a player to the foul line and sent the ball to Embiid with a high-low action. When he doubled his position, he found the free man, often Ben Simmons, who was defeating himself after the Nets sent him help.
When Embiid caught the ball on the perimeter, he did not get settled, but moved back to the position where he could score more easily or shoot an extra defender (or two). In this series, Embiid shot 22 for 35 (63%) in the paint and 3 for 14 (21%) on the outside.
"I'm just trying to live in painting," he said. "They're going to have to double me, that's what I thought, they're going to have to send two or three guys, they're protecting me in a single cover, I'm going to dominate, and then I'm going to make the right pass.It's my job.We found it. "
While the Sixers were down with 25 seconds to play, the Sixers turned to Embiid, while Allen preceded him in the post. Joe Harris sank on the weak side and dropped the ball from Embiid's hands, but Embiid beat Traveon Graham up to the ball and, with one hand, opened the ball to a Mike Scott (Harris man) in the corner for what happened to be the 3-pointer winner with 18.6 seconds.
The goal of the NBA's offensive is to find an advantage and use it to exploit the defense and get an open shot. Embiid is this benefit for the Sixers every time he walks on the ground. And with him on the ground Saturday, the Sixers scored 80 points on 69 possessions. With him, they scored only 32 points out of 35 possessions.
"He was dominant," said Brown. "There were times when we could see that it was still raw, and there were some decisions that he would probably like to have again." But considering the volume of playing time that he was not sure Has not been lately, it's just a dominant performance.What more can you say? "
Embiid remains the most important piece of the Sixers puzzle. Really, when it's about competing with the best teams in the league, it is the puzzle.
The question is how much they will have it. For every game in this series, Brown did not know until shortly before saying whether he was going to have his most important player or not. Embiid was clearly handicapped in the first match, better in the second, absent in the third and dominant in the fourth.
Maybe things are going in the right direction. And maybe the status of Embiid will remain a question from now on.
The Sixers' ability to compete for an Eastern Conference championship is at stake.
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