Brett Brown wants his 7-foot-2 center shooting more three-pointers. Yes, the Sixers coach would prefer to see Joel Embiid, the man who leads the league with 10.1 post-up points per game, launching more from deep.
“I really want him to shoot six to eight threes per game,” Brown said after the Sixers’ 110-99 win Friday night (see observations). “So how does that happen and he’s still an interior presence, a paint-catch guy? If you look at our team, I’m convinced that the three-point line is where the sport is heading and I think it’s going to rear its head in the playoffs, and our point guards don’t shoot threes. So already, you’re kind of dealing with zero with Ben (Simmons) and with T.J. (McConnell)."
Embiid shot 1 for 4 from three-point range Friday. For the season, he’s shooting 31.5 percent from deep on 3.3 attempts per game.
In the first quarter Friday, Embiid had no hesitation shooting when Dwight Howard played off him. He started slow, however, making just two of his first nine shots overall.
But with a mix of crafty rip-through moves and inside strength, Embiid ensured Howard was in foul trouble all night. The Hornets’ big man picked up his third foul with 2:21 left in the first quarter and finished with six points, six rebounds and five fouls in only 25 minutes.
“Dwight, he’s had his years,” Embiid said. “He’s still really good. Watching him this season, he’s been playing really well. But every night I’m going on the court, I feel like whoever I’m going against, I just need to play better than them because I know I consider myself as one of the top players in the league. So I feel like I always have a target on my back.”
The Hornets center had to sit out the end of the third quarter and the first half of the fourth after picking up his fifth foul, but Embiid saw Howard’s intensity pick up when he returned for crunch time. That meant less space for Embiid on the perimeter, but it didn’t hurt the Sixers’ offense. The Sixers scored 36 points, with nine assists, in the final frame.
“I thought in the fourth quarter, Dwight kind of took it personal and he didn’t want to help off me,” Embiid said. “So I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to keep playing our two-man game and getting my teammates involved,’ and we got a lot of layups and dunks off that. I think on offense, whatever I can do to help set my teammates free, I do. If it takes me being at the three-point line for Ben to attack the basket, that’s what I’m doing.
“If I’m open from three, I know the coaches want me to take like take 10 threes a game, which is not going to, well, it’s already happened (once — on Dec. 28, 2017, against Portland, Embiid shot 6 for 12 from long range). But I don’t know how many times it will happen in my career unless I really feel it. But my job is really to draw some attention and open up the court for my teammates.”