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Is Joel Embiid a low-post beast or 3-point shooter? Why not both?

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Is Joel Embiid a low-post beast or 3-point shooter? Why not both?

Whenever Joel Embiid launches a three-point shot, there are inevitably a few groans in the stands.

“Why are you 25 feet away from the basket? Get in the post!”

“You gotta be kidding me! You’re 7-feet tall!”

Unless Embiid suddenly acquires JJ Redick’s shooting ability, there’s always going to be angst about his three-point attempts. Yet Brett Brown has said he wants Embiid shooting more from long range.

“I really want him to shoot six to eight threes per game,” Brown said on March 2. “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)."

At his end-of-season press conference last Thursday, Embiid explained where he sees the three-point shot fitting in his offensive arsenal.

“Threes have never really been a big part of my game,” Embiid said. “If I’m open, I’m going to take them. I feel like it’s kind of disrespectful to leave me. I might make some, I might miss some. Last year, I was a better three-point shooter. This year, not being able to work during the summer kind of affected that, and with all the injuries and stuff. But this summer is going to be a big one, and I know what I need to correct and my trainer does, too. So we’re going to fix a lot of things.”

Embiid shot 31.3 percent on 3.4 long-distance attempts per game this past season, down from 37.5 percent on 3.1 attempts his rookie year.

Like Brown, Embiid feels that the Sixers’ offense is better when opposing defenses have to respect his shot. But while Brown cited the need to compensate for lack of three-point shooting from McConnell (27 for 62 from deep during the regular season) and Simmons (no made three-pointers), Embiid had a different rationale.

“Obviously, I want to be a beast inside,” Embiid said. “It’s also not just about me, because if I spend all my time on the block, it kind of clogs up the paint. You have to allow guys to drive and score at the rim. I don’t want to always clog the paint, so sometimes you have to spend time at the three-point line just to open things up because I feel like I attract a lot of attention and guys are not going to leave me open, so it just opens the whole offense.”

As anyone who watches the NBA could tell you, the modern game is all about scoring at the basket and from behind the arc. So while it may seem ludicrous on the surface to have the player who finished second in the league in post-up points per game (9.1) shooting regularly from three-point territory, Embiid isn’t going to stop shooting threes just because he wasn’t very good from long range this season.

That said, it doesn’t sound likely that he will ever launch six to eight times per game, as Brown desires. It’s just not his identity as a player.

“[Three-point shooting] is definitely a part of my game,” Embiid said, “but the biggest part of my game is to be a low-post, dominant scorer.”

Sixers can apparently turn it on and off but should probably leave it on

Sixers can apparently turn it on and off but should probably leave it on

The better NBA teams seem like they can turn it on and off during the course of an 82-game season.

The defending champion Warriors are a perfect example. They got blown out by the lowly Mavericks Saturday — granted, without Stephen Curry — and then went out and beat a hot Pistons team Sunday.

The Sixers appear to have that gift — the ability to turn it on and off on a given night.

After watching the poor effort the Sixers gave in a 119-98 loss to the Magic at Amway Center Monday night (see observations) and with just eight games remaining in the regular season, it would probably behoove them to turn it on.

After big wins over the Bucks and Celtics, you can excuse away a disappointing loss to a young and feisty Hawks team that the Sixers clearly overlooked. But the effort they showed Monday night in Orlando was putrid.

They were sloppy early, committing eight turnovers in the first half. Their defensive was porous throughout, allowing the Magic to shoot 51.7 percent from the field and still having trouble defending the pick-and-roll. Ben Simmons was out with an illness, but there’s no excuse for the Sixers to go nearly an entire quarter without a field goal at one point in the second half.

Joel Embiid reportedly refused to talk to reporters postgame. Hard to blame him after this one.

You can blame Brett Brown. You can blame Embiid getting in foul trouble. You can blame the quiet Tobias Harris and JJ Redick. You can blame Simmons’ absence. 

Whatever you decide is the culprit for this one, it boils down to effort. The Magic looked like a desperate team. The Sixers looked like a team desperate to get home from a two-game road trip.

When they do return to the Wells Fargo Center, a tall task awaits them. They take on the Nets, a team that's fighting to secure its first playoff berth since 2015 and that's had the Sixers' number through three games this season. The only reason Brooklyn didn't take all three contests is because of a Herculean effort by Jimmy Butler in the Sixers' lone win back on Nov. 25.

The sky certainly isn’t falling. The Sixers are still in the driver’s seat for the East’s third seed and once they get to the playoffs, games like these will be a distant memory.

But with just eight games left and plenty to sort out with a new-look team, the Sixers should probably turn it on ... and keep it on.

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Magic 119, Sixers 98: Sixers with terrible effort vs. playoff-hungry Magic

Magic 119, Sixers 98: Sixers with terrible effort vs. playoff-hungry Magic

BOX SCORE

You can brush off a loss on the road to a feisty young Atlanta team, especially coming off two big wins.

But not showing up two nights later against an Orlando team fighting for its playoff life? Yikes.

The Sixers were physically in Orlando, but their effort was nowhere to be found in a 119-98 loss to the Magic at Amway Center Monday night.

The loss drops them to 47-27 on the season. Ben Simmons missed the game with an illness.

Here are observations from the game.

• The Sixers were sloppy early, turning the ball over eight times in the first half, leading to 10 Magic points. Because they couldn’t take care of the basketball, they were up by just three going into the locker room.

Much like in Atlanta, their defense was not tight. There were plenty of miscommunication issues, especially in the pick-and-roll. They allowed Orlando to shoot 37.9 percent from three.

At one point in the second half, the Sixers went 11:50 without a basket. The Magic are a good defensive team, but not that good. Missing Simmons hurts, but the Sixers still had plenty of offensive firepower on the floor Monday.

Their effort was lacking as the Magic looked like a team fighting for a playoff spot while the Sixers looked like a team playing out the string. It was truly a disappointing effort, especially coming off a disappointing loss.

• It was a weird first half for Joel Embiid, who nearly recorded a double-double but also turned the ball over four times and picked up two early fouls.

To start the second half, he decided to play straight bully ball, beating up on former Sixer Nikola Vucevic on multiple plays.

But the double teams became more aggressive after this basket and the Sixers' perimeter shooters were unable to make Orlando pay. The team went just 6 of 23 from three.

I'm not sure if it was him picking up his fourth or what, but Embiid didn't look right late in the game. He wasn't challenging anything at the rim and looked a step slow. He finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

• With Simmons out of the lineup, there was no doubt we’d be seeing Jimmy Butler used more as a point guard. Butler continues to look more than comfortable in that role as Brett Brown puts him in more situations that make him comfortable.

This pick-and-roll with Butler and Embiid was a thing of beauty.

I’d like to see Embiid roll to the rim more often. He and Butler can be an incredibly dangerous duo.

Butler was one of the few bright spots for the Sixers tonight, finishing with 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds. He was also one of the few players that actually showed anything defensively.

• With no Ben Simmons or James Ennis, T.J. McConnell got the start and Shake Milton and Jonathon Simmons got some run.

McConnell struggled, going 1 of 4 from the field with just two assists and two turnovers. He continues to be a liability when asked to defend bigger and more athletic players.

Milton, playing in his first NBA game since Feb. 2, was part of the first wave of subs. The rookie out of SMU has starred for the Blue Coats and gave a glimpse of what he brings to the table.

He made another nice cut to the basket on a Harris drive. Harris hit Milton backdoor, and he finished at the rim. Milton also nailed a three off the dribble. He just really has a feel for the game and can hit shots. He shows a ton of poise for a first-year player as well. He can also keep opposing guards in front of him.

The Sixers would have to convert Milton’s contract from a two-way deal to a standard NBA deal — which they can do at any time before the regular season ends with a corresponding move —  for him to be eligible for the playoffs, but if he keeps showing out like this, he’s going to give the team plenty to think about.

He finished with 13 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the field.

• The only benefit of the Sixers getting their doors blown off in the second half was we got to see first-round pick Zhaire Smith make his NBA debut. Smith actually ended the team's scoring drought with his first NBA basket, a three from the top of the key.

• The Sixers were abused by two of their former players, Vucevic and Michael Carter-Williams. Vucevic put up 28 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Carter-Williams, the recent recipient of a second 10-day contract, put up 15 points, six rebounds and three assists. It just adds a little more salt to the wound.

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