Joel Embiid had himself a night in Tuesday’s 101-98 loss to the Pacers (see observations). There was plenty of good, plenty of bad, and yes, plenty of ugly.
Embiid had 29 points, including 22 in the second half. He also had 12 rebounds, four assists, eight turnovers (tying his career high) and a technical foul for shoving Lance Stephenson with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.
Embiid's three-pointer from the top of the key on the Sixers’ final possession would have tied the game, but it fell short.
After the game, Brett Brown said he didn’t think the technical distracted Embiid.
“I don’t think it takes him out of his game,” Brown said. “There are some times that I think it almost gets him going … I’m sure if we had that again, perhaps that’s not the way he’d want to handle it. But in general, I don’t think it does make him have a meltdown and lose focus. He’s pretty good like that, I think he likes to get excited.”
Embiid certainly played with an aggressive mindset following the technical. He had three emphatic dunks in the fourth quarter, and scored 12 points after his shove on the Pacers’ pesky guard. He also looked much more for his own offense, as evidenced by his 15 second-half field goal attempts and zero second-half assists.
One of the keys for the Sixers heading into the postseason will be Embiid finding the right balance between attacking out of the post and finding his teammates when faced with double teams. He probably erred on the conservative side in the first half, shooting just 2 for 7 and dishing out four assists.
While Brown is generally pleased with Embiid’s development as a decision-maker, he knows the Sixers can’t afford for Embiid to turn the ball over as often as he does. While Tuesday’s eight turnovers are an outlier, Embiid does turn the ball over 3.8 times per game on the season.
“He’s improving as a passer out of the post,” Brown said. “He’s improving as a willing passer, and I think some of his reads are sophisticated reads. I feel like we’re getting better on the floor spots we need to be in so he knows where his outlets are, and there are times where people are pecking at the ball and it squirts out; we have to get stronger at times with the ball.
“It might be the most important offense we have if we’re lucky enough to get in the playoffs, is, ‘What do you do around Joel?’”
It’s not ideal for the player the Sixers will likely lean on for the majority of possessions in the playoffs to have an assist-to-turnover ratio under one (0.84). That said, the Sixers know they have a dominant low-post scorer and defensive anchor in Embiid. Turnovers and technical fouls are great ways to shoot yourself in the foot in the postseason, but even with those flaws, Embiid is talented enough to scare elite teams.