Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Shield your eyes, the numbers are an eyesore. According to the NBA’s defensive matchup data, Embiid scored 23 points on a mere 18.1 possessions while defended by Tristan Thompson. That included shooting a perfect 7-for-7, drawing three shooting fouls, and generating 10 free throw attempts during their matchup time.
No one else fared much better. Embiid had 8 points on 3-of-6 shooting on 12.6 possessions against Theis. That included drawing two more shooting fouls. Grant Williams gave up 4 points in 2.5 possessions defended. More troubling, the Celtics forced only one measly turnover by Embiid, who they’ve routinely harassed into giveaways when they’ve had success against him in the past.
Not including last night, Embiid averaged 10.4 FTA per game over the last two seasons vs. Boston. Yesterday probably brought that average up a little, too. Yes, Embiid is great at “flailing” to get to the line as Marcus Smart put it in the postgame press conference last night, but the Celtics have two underlying problems here: first, being able to get a body on big men and defend down the stretch, and second, consistently getting to the foul line themselves. This second issue should somewhat correct itself when Tatum returns and Kemba is no longer on a minutes restriction. But the first problem is seemingly more pressing.
In fact, after Wednesday’s loss, the Celtics rank 27th in the NBA in opponent free throw rate. The Celtics have been, by and large, a bad defense this year and an inability to keep opponents off the line is a big reason why, particularly while committing costly non-shooting fouls in quarters when an opponent is already in the penalty.
In contrast, the Sixers are one of the best teams in the NBA at getting to the line (4th in FT rate), largely thanks to the strength, smarts and timely flops from Embiid. The Sixers center is one of the toughest covers in the league but the C’s did themselves no favors by leaving their bigs on an island a bit too much on a night that Embiid had it going.
“Embiid is smart, man, he knows how to get fouled,” Walker said. “He understands that part of the game and he’s been doing that for a while now, having guys foul him. He’s a huge body. It’s not much you can do but to foul him sometimes.
Thompson is 6’9″. Theis is 6’8″. Grant and Rob are still inexperienced. the Celtics will have to employ some different tactics to make Embiid work for his points. Hopefully, Brad makes some tweaks before tomorrow’s game against *checks notes* Embiid and the Sixers.
On Page 2… The Celtics are starting to get healthy
Though he’s the type of player who wants to stay on the court every second of every game, Walker said he is willing to take it slow this time. He knows the health of his left knee could depend on it.
“I’m getting back,” Walker said, “and I’m not going to rush the process.”
Walker, still on restricted playing time, sat for the first 11 minutes of the second half so he could be available for more of the fourth quarter.
It’s great to see Kemba *slowly* returning to form. No need to rush or force anything 13 games into the season. Not to mention Tatum has finally cleared COVID protocols and could return as soon as tomorrow. Tatum has been desperately missed as the shorthanded Celtics had to get creative without him offensively.
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