76ers

Joel Embiid shares summer trash talk with Draymond Green

Joel Embiid shares summer trash talk with Draymond Green

SAN FRANCISCO — Joel Embiid got a jump-start on trash talking against the Warriors months before their Nov. 11 matchup. 

Embiid was at a dinner this past summer with Draymond Green. Embiid got the banter underway when he shared his expectations with one of the league’s most outspoken players. 

“I told him that I was going to kick his a--,” Embiid said Friday after practice. “I can’t wait to play against him. I love the way he talks trash. I feel like I’m kind of like the same, so it’s going to be a fun battle.” 

Green took Embiid’s comments in stride. They ended up exchanging phone numbers. 

“He was just laughing,” Embiid said. “Then he was like, ‘Yeah, right.’ Friendly trash talk.”

Embiid will play against the Warriors for the first time in his career on Saturday. He is looking forward to competing against Green, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. 

Embiid also has heard about the energy level of the Warriors’ fans inside Oracle Arena and can’t wait to play in that environment. Even if the crowd drowns out the noise on the court, there will be plenty of chatter going on. 

“I love doing that,” Embiid said. “Doesn’t matter if you’re my friend or not. I’m always going to talk trash.” 

The Sixers could use a strong game from Embiid against the 9-3 Warriors. Even though he’s putting up standout numbers (20.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks per game), Embiid has shot a combined 14 for 35 from the field and committed a total of 11 turnovers in his last two games. He did not play Tuesday against the Jazz.

Any time Embiid shows signs of struggles, eyebrows are raised about his health. Brett Brown acknowledged Embiid experiences “a little bit” of soreness after playing but isn’t worried. Embiid played 32 minutes on Thursday against the Kings. 

“I think some of that is just to be expected from a man of 7-foot-2, 280 pounds,” Brown said. “It’s just part of the wear and tear of playing 30-something minutes. You feel that there is soreness. With him, because there have been other injuries, those are exacerbated a little bit. But not to the point where we’re alarmists or anything’s overly concerning. It’s just the whole recovery and maintenance of Joel.”

The big man, who underwent left knee surgery in March, said there’s nothing to fret about. 

“I feel great,” Embiid said. “I’m good. Just got to get in shape.”

Embiid is working on his conditioning. He is trying to drop a couple pounds to 280, his weight during the Sixers’ 10-5 month of January. His goal would be 275 pounds. 

“My legs wouldn’t feel as heavy as they feel, especially at the end of games,” Embiid said of weight-loss objectives. “I’d get more lift. I’d just be more athletic. This year, I feel like I haven’t been the same defensively, although the numbers say that I’m better than I was last year. … I think I’ll be fine. I’m not worried about it. I’m only playing about 27 minutes and it’s all going to come together.”

A good place for that to happen would be in Oakland. 

Sixers use stifling defense to blow out Trail Blazers

Sixers use stifling defense to blow out Trail Blazers

BOX SCORE

The Sixers blew out the Trail Blazers by 20 points and reached the 10-win mark, their 2015-16 total, 17 games into the season (see observations)

Still, when Brett Brown assessed their 101-81 victory, he did so with a non-complacent eye. Not getting wrapped up in a win in November keeps the team even-keeled and focused. 

“I would give us an A on defense and like a C-minus on offense,” Brown said. “We’re happy with [the record], but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The Sixers held the Trail Blazers scoreless for the first seven minutes of the game (16-0) (see video). They notably restricted C.J. McCollum to only five points, 16 below his average. 

“I think we’re just very consistent on defense,” Ben Simmons said. 

Brown noticed room for improvement on the other end: committing less turnovers (18), finding Joel Embiid (28 points) more often, taking better-advised threes (3 for 11 in the first quarter) and minimizing possessions during which they didn’t get a shot attempt. Expect the team to focus on these areas so it doesn’t get ahead of itself for the next game on Saturday. 

“If you said you could have offense versus bad defense,” Brown said, “I would take the bad offense and have good defense any day of the week.” 

Embiid surpassing Thanksgiving milestone
Brown uses different points in the season as milestones. He eyed Thanksgiving as a checkpoint when it came to Embiid’s fitness level. Well, the holiday is here and Embiid has been averaging 32 minutes in his last five games. 

“He has exceeded my expectations to date kind of all over the place,” Brown said.

Embiid has been playing minute restriction-free. He has sat out only two games after appearing in 31 last season. Embiid is averaging 22.7 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.9 blocks and 0.8 steals in 29 minutes per game. He delivered a monster block on Damian Lillard that nearly shot the ball out of the arena. 

“Not to be cocky, but I think I’m the best defensive player in the league right now,” Embiid said.

The big man projected his fitness level is at 81 percent with room to improve. 

“It’s not all the way there but I think it’s getting better,” Embiid said. “I’ve still got to work on a lot of things, but it’s getting there. I can’t wait to be at a hundred percent.”

“We-Want-Ok-A-For” 
With a 20-point lead and the game wrapped up, the Sixers' home crowd broke out into a chant. Only it wasn’t “Trust the Process.” It was “We want Okafor.” Brett Brown didn’t nudge out of consideration to Jahlil Okafor, who has appeared in two games this season. 

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Brown said. “I think you get into a playing rhythm, a playing routine and that’s fair. To just hoist somebody a little tiny window of minutes isn’t something that interests me. I say that out of respect to him. I don’t think that puts him in a position that I want to put him in.”

Okafor is out of the Sixers’ rotation and their future plans since the team declined to exercise his player option. Okafor has made it clear he wants to be traded or bought out so he can find an opportunity to play. 

Embiid heard the chants and would like his close friend to be the court too, but at the same time gets the team’s game plan at this point. 

“I just want what’s best for him,” Embiid said. “I think he’s really good offensively. Defensively I think he’s gotten so much better, even in rebounding. I think he deserves a chance. But it’s hard. It’s business. We’ve been playing so well and I understand the coaches and the front office want to keep the same lineup because we’ve been playing so well.” 

Best of NBA: Celtics' 16-game winning streak snapped by Heat

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USA Today Images

Best of NBA: Celtics' 16-game winning streak snapped by Heat

MIAMI — Goran Dragic scored 27 points, Dion Waiters had 26 with a pair of big 3-pointers in the final minutes and the Miami Heat held on to beat Boston 104-98 on Wednesday night, snapping the Celtics' 16-game winning streak.

Tyler Johnson scored 16 points for Miami, which saw what was an 18-point lead cut to one in the final moments. The Heat shot 49 percent and outrebounded the Celtics 48-37.

Kyrie Irving scored 23 points for Boston. Jayson Tatum added 18, and Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris each had 14.

The Celtics got down by 18 in the first half, which has been a very comfortable place for Boston so far this season. Boston had overcome 18-point deficits against Oklahoma City and Charlotte, a 17-point hole against Golden State, a 16-pointer against Atlanta and rallied from 13 down to win in Dallas this week.

They almost did it again (see full recap)

Barnes' 30-footer at the horn lifts Mavs over Grizzlies
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Harrison Barnes banked in a 30-footer at the buzzer to give the Dallas Mavericks a 95-94 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.

Officials reviewed the play to make sure the shot got off in time. Memphis suffered its sixth straight loss after squandering an 18-point lead in the first half.

Barnes led the Mavericks with 22 points, nine of them coming in the fourth quarter to help Dallas thwart a late Memphis comeback. Dennis Smith Jr. finished with 17 points, and J.J. Barea had 10 points and 11 assists.

Tyreke Evans led Memphis with 18 points, and Marc Gasol and Deyonta Davis finished with 14 points each (see full recap).

Westbrook's 34 points lead Thunder past Durant's Warriors
OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook scored a season-high 34 points and added 10 rebounds and nine assists to help the Oklahoma City Thunder roll past the Golden State Warriors, 108-91 on Wednesday night.

It was Oklahoma City's first win over the Warriors since Kevin Durant left the Thunder to join the Warriors after the 2015-16 season. Golden State won all four meetings last season by an average of nearly 20 points.

Westbrook said it was just another game in the buildup, but he didn't play like it. At one point in the third quarter, Westbrook and Durant went forehead to forehead and were called for double technicals.

Westbrook's new All-Star teammates came through. Carmelo Anthony scored 22 points and Paul George added 20 (see full recap)

Howard, Hornets rally to beat Wizards in overtime
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Hornets keep finding ways to win at home.

Now if Dwight Howard and his teammates can figure out how to win away from Charlotte they might become a very dangerous team.

Howard had 26 points and 13 rebounds, including a key block at the end of regulation and a crucial offensive rebound in overtime, in the Hornets' 129-124 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

The Hornets improved to 7-2 at home. But they're still below .500 overall because of a 1-7 road record (see full recap)