The much-hyped matchup between Joel Embiid and Andre Drummond wasn't a fair fight.
Embiid dominated Drummond and the Pistons Saturday afternoon, scoring a Wells Fargo Center record 32 first-half points, 39 overall and grabbing 17 rebounds in a 109-99 win (see observations).
And afterward, he wasn't shy in calling it exactly how he saw it.
I thought that both of the bigs [Drummond and Zaza Pachulia] tried to flop a lot, especially on the back downs, trying to get me my fifth foul or to foul out, which I thought was whatever. But at the end of the day, I kicked both of their ass, whoever was guarding me, and we got the win.
Pachulia played a significant role Saturday because Embiid drew two fouls on Drummond within the first three minutes. Embiid was quick to let Drummond know it was time to take a seat.
Drummond was limited to 20 minutes, posting eight points and nine rebounds.
Embiid took to social media after the game to call out Drummond.
— Joel “Do a 180” Embiid??? (@JoelEmbiid) November 3, 2018
Embiid drew fouls on just about anyone who tried to defend him, attempting 23 free throws, the most by a player in the NBA this season. His 99 free-throw attempts this season are the most in the league. Damian Lillard has the second-most free throw attempts, with 67.
That ability to get to the line at will is one of Embiid's greatest strength, but it's also one reason why it's easy to overlook his dominance or to be a step slow in realizing he's playing at a historically great level. It's not as attractive as his powerful dunks in the post or his outrageous agility on the perimeter, but it's a key part of his game.
"To me, I knew he was having a good game," Brett Brown said, "and you look at what his numbers were at halftime and you’re like, ‘Wow.’ To come in at the end of the game and have 39 and 17, that is dominant. And 23 free throws, I think that is my favorite stat out of all of that. That is a mentality, that is a disposition.”
Embiid said he surprised himself with his ruthless approach early.
“I thought I was really aggressive to start the game, which I didn’t expect because it was such an early game," he said. "Going into the game, I was kind of just chilling or whatever. Just being aggressive, a lot of duck-ins. If you go back to the Atlanta game, they kind of put me in a tough spot, especially every time they triple-teamed me.
"That was an opportunity for me to learn and I did learn from it. When I’m in that situation, a lot of duck-ins and just being aggressive, that’s what I gotta do each and every game.”
As for the Drummond battle, Embiid wouldn't bite on a question about whether it was his favorite matchup in the league. But he would say that anyone who watches the Sixers knows — just about every night, there's a good chance Embiid is going to do something special.
“It’s a fun matchup," Embiid said. "I feel like I dominate every game, especially against them."
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