Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers had a golden chance to end their second round series against Boston Celtics at home on Thursday night, but they let that opportunity slip by. The Celtics took control of the Sixers in the fourth quarter and won 95-86, forcing a Game 7.
Sixers offense stagnated and was inefficient, scoring just 13 points in the final quarter. Their star center Embiid was visibly upset by the lack of ball movement on his team and his lack of touches. He had 26 points with 10 rebounds. Embiid took only six shots in second half, and none in last four minutes.
“I think three things were involved. We missed a lot wide-open shots. We stopped moving it. Embiid stated that he did not touch the ball in the final four minutes.
Embiid was helpless as the Celtics scored big in the final quarter, with Marcus Smart leading the way with 22 points and seven assists, followed by Jayson Tatum, who had 19 points of which 16 came in the 4th quarter. The Sixers’ defensive unit also had trouble stopping the Celtics’ scorers. They made 42.3% of their field goal attempts and 44.9% of their three-pointers .
Boston’s Joel Embiid faces elimination
To advance to the conference championships, the Sixers must regroup and win in Boston. The Sixers won both games played at TD Garden during this series. However, they know that it will be difficult to win again against a Celtics team who has displayed grit and resiliency.
If they are to advance and survive, the Sixers must make changes at both ends of court. The Sixers will need to tighten their defense after allowing the Celtics to score too many easy baskets, and take open threes in the fourth-quarter.
But they must also make Embiid a more active part of their offense, and ensure that he has enough opportunities and shots in the crunch. Embiid is the best player in the team and the most dominant presence on the court. He was recently named as the NBA MVP this season. In the regular season, he averaged 33.1 rebounds, 10.2 points and 4.2 assist. He has been a major problem for the Celtics defense this series.
If the Sixers are to win Game 7 to keep their title hopes alive, then they must feed Embiid. If they don’t, then the Sixers will be facing a disappointing exit from the playoffs.