The Boston Celtics had chances to beat the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night? They had fourth quarter leads twice and chances to flip the scoreboard down the stretch.
Part of that was that Boston went ice cold from the field. The Celtics shot 8-for-24 in the fourth quarter and just 1-for-9 from deep.
Another part of it, at least according to Marcus Smart, was the free throw disparity.
“(Joel Embiid) shot – alone, himself – 21 free throws. Our team shot 20,” Smart said after the loss. “Can’t beat that. They shot 36 for 45, we shot 13 for 20. Hard to win that way.”
The Celtics shot no free throws in the fourth quarter, but they certainly could have. Kemba Walker argued for whistles on several occasions, but to no avail. However, he took a more level-headed approach.
“For me personally, it’s fine,” Walker said. “I’ve been around for a long time. I’ve got a good relationship with a lot of the referees. So I always think I get fouled, to be honest. What player don’t think they get fouled?”
Embiid was quite certain he was fouled, saying as much after the game. Smart, though, wasn’t so sure.
“It’s tough. It is tough. Especially when we’ve got our hands up a lot of the times and he flails and gets the call,” Smart said. “And then down on the other end we’ve got our guys attacking the rim, getting a lot of contact and we’re just not getting the whistle. It’s tough to play like that. It’s tough.”
Embiid and Smart have exchanged words, and more, in the past, and Embiid was more than happy to oblige in another postgame quote battle.
“Marcus Smart just told me that I flail a lot? Come on. I’m sure he knows himself and he knows his game too, he does a lot of that. And I don’t think I do,” Embiid said. “I guess I’m just smarter than everybody else, I just take advantage of it. I just take advantage of how they’re guarding me. You can call that, I don’t know basketball IQ, like if you’re going to put your hand up there, I’m gonna take advantage of it and I’m gonna get to the free throw line.”
He did exactly that on his way to a 42 point night on 12-for-19 shooting, including 17-for-21 from the line.
Smart is right about it being hard to win with that kind of free throw disparity. The Celtics made more baskets (42 to 36) and more 3-pointers (13 to 9), but they were outscored by 23 at the line in an 8 point loss.
Whether you think the disparity is fair or not, it’s not uncommon. Embiid often lives at the line, and Walker knows the Celtics need to be better prepared for that.
“Embiid is Smart, man, he knows how to get fouled. He understands that part of the game and he’s been doing that for a while now,” Walker said. “He’s a huge body. It’s not much you can do but to foul him sometimes. We’ve just got to be more conscious of—we’ve got to help our bigs. Stopping Embiid is not a one-on-one thing. That’s close to being impossible. You can stop him a few times, but you’ve got to count on your teammates to help stop that man.”
You can hear directly from Smart and Embiid in the new Locked On Celtics podcast.