76ers

Joel Embiid's 1st career back-to-back yields mixed bag

Joel Embiid's 1st career back-to-back yields mixed bag

BOX SCORE

INDIANAPOLIS — The Sixers would’ve liked a better result, but Saturday night’s final score took a backseat to what they learned about All-Star center Joel Embiid.

He finally played the second night of a back-to-back and, for the most part, looked pretty good doing it. After slowly acclimating the big man through his first 70 career games, Sixers coach Brett Brown was optimistic after a 100-92 loss at Indiana (see observations).

A night after playing 31 minutes, Embiid was on the court for 34 and finished with a game-high 24 points to complement his 10 rebounds, but also ended up minus-20 with seven turnovers.

Brown will take the good with the bad.

“It just goes to show how dominant Joel can be. He ends up with 24 and 10 rebounds, and you question his impact on the game,” Brown said. “That’s a helluva statement.”

“For him to do that in his first back-to-back, full credit to him. To produce those types of stats in a back-to-back is impressive but it wasn’t Joel Embiid.”

Embiid agreed with the coach after a fourth quarter (four points, two turnovers) that mirrored his teammates’ effort. The Sixers managed just three field goals while turning the ball over six times in the first seven minutes of the final period to help doom themselves to their fourth straight road loss.

“I’m happy that I finally played in a back-to-back but wish we would’ve gotten the win,” Embiid said after his 25th double-double of the season. “I felt like the whole time we were just flat. It’s not to the level we usually play at but overall we didn’t have a good game. 

“It just wasn’t our best night.”

Embiid, JJ Redick and Ben Simmons were a combined 14-for-40 from the floor Saturday night and the Pacers, who dropped the Sixers back to the .500 mark with the win, turned the Sixers' 18 turnovers into 22 points.

Still, the final 32 games of the season, which starts with a five-game homestand and legitimate hopes of the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2012, seemed to be the focus.

Brown, who said before Saturday’s game it felt good to not have to alter the plan because he knew he’d have Embiid in the lineup, doesn’t think it’s going to take any getting used to now that it appears the center is ready for a playoff push.

“I think we’ve had enough of a taste of Joel to not have that level of adjustment. I think that it’s only positive; the more he’s with us and playing with us, that’s a good thing,” he said. “We’ve played quite a bit of basketball with him so I don’t feel like there’s any adjustment.

“I feel like we’re going to start to thrive more and more in a very positive way and not speed bumps because we’re now playing with him more.”

The Sixers are at home until the All-Star break. They begin the five-game stretch Tuesday night when Washington visits the Wells Fargo Center.

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

LOS ANGELES —  From trash talking on the court to expressing himself on social media, Joel Embiid is a player of many (many) words. So if his fellow All-Stars had to describe him in just one, what would it be? 

Draymond Green: "'Funny.' He's hilarious. The stuff he says, he goes on TV talking about (Kevin Durant's) burner account, he's talking how he's a savage. His Instagram locations, pretty funny. He's a good guy." 

Andre Drummond: "I’d probably say 'charismatic,' 'funny,' 'savage.' He don’t care, he just does what he wants to.”

Paul George: “Personality,' in all caps."

(Why all caps?)

“Because he’s a big dude.”

John Wall: "He's just 'himself.' He's very confident."

Anthony Davis: “'Savage.' Cool dude, he lives by his own rules. He’s just enjoying life and having fun.”

Jimmy Butler: "'Remarkable' in the fact that his game on the court is insane. Then the way he's always saying something to somebody on social media is really 'remarkable.'"

Bradley Beal: “'Wild.' He has no filter, he doesn’t care. That’s my boy, but he just has no remorse, doesn’t care."

LaMarcus Aldridge: “'Entertaining,' because he’s always on TV expressing how he feels. So, entertaining.”

New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

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USA Today Images

New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

This week’s serving of Rob Rants focuses on the dichotomy of the 2018 NBA All-star Game and the show that comes with it. On the court, the game was a highly entertaining, competitive, tightly fought contest that incorporated a new concept that's a winner. The league also attempted something new prior to the game. That idea did not quite work as well. 

All-Star Games 
I generally am not a fan of All-Star Games. I haven’t watched the Pro Bowl in years. Same goes for the NHL All-Star Game. I find the MLB's midsummer classic to be the most watchable of the four. Plus, they have a captive audience as there are no other options that time of year. In recent years, I’ve taken more to the NBA three-point contest and skills competition rather than the dunk contest or the game itself. Full disclosure: I watched the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night for a few reasons. I wanted to see Joel Embiid’s first All-Star Game. I was curious about the new draft format of player selection. And my 16-year-old son who I was watching it with is a die-hard Sixers and NBA fan. So I watched all the way through. What I found were two polar-opposite productions. 

Premise
Along with ESPN’s College Gameday. I find TNT's Inside the NBA to be as good as it gets in terms of pregame shows. Ernie, Charles, Kenny, Shaq and crew were excellent as always. It’s what happened after they signed off that was a sight to be hold. 

Pregame show?
Philadelphia’s own Kevin Hart performed some type of musical/broadway play/comedy/is this really happening? Somehow Rob Riggle, the least funny man in the world, was involved. As were Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah and Ludacris. And there were cheerleaders and wild west folk. There may have been others but at that point, I began slipping into some kind of hypnotic coma. It went on interminably long. It was the kind of thing that, if Hart was not so popular and talented, can kill a career. It was that bad. But I strangely could not pull myself away. It was car crash, rubber-necking kind of bad. 

That mercifully ended and you thought it was game time. But we still had the anthems. First, the Canadian anthem, which was followed by the Star Spangled Banner. Fergie decided that she would turn Francis Scott Key’s composition into a steamy, sultry, lounge act from back in the day. To put it kindly, she missed the mark. Charles Barkley said at halftime that he needed a cigarette after her performance. It wasn’t quite Carl Lewis or Roseanne Barr-level of terrible, but it just capped a half hour-plus of strangeness that anyone who watched was never getting back. All of this just reaffirmed why I don’t generally indulge in these exhibitions. But then something funny happened. 

The game
The NBA smartly changed formats for All-Star selection this year. The league went playground style, having two captains choose their teams. LeBron James and Steph Curry were the two captains in charge of selecting from the voted-in All-Stars. The game, unlike recent years, had a different kind of competitive feel from the jump. Yes, it had the usual array of dunks and incredible passes, which the game should have. But there was defense played and fouls taken. Strategy was employed. To the players and NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s credit, the changes were a home run. The game came down to the last possession with Team Steph having a chance to tie with a three. Team LeBron played great defense and Curry could not get a shot off, giving Team LeBron the 148-145 victory. The game had the best of both worlds — incredible athletes showing off their skills and a level of care and compete not seen in a long time. And Embiid had an excellent All-Star debut with 19 points, eight boards and a great sequence where he nailed a rainbow three-pointer and then swatted Russell Westbrook at the other end of the floor.

Lesson here: tune in at tip-off. And no more Rob Riggle. Ever.