76ers

Joel Embiid on Andre Drummond, Zaza Pachulia: 'I kicked both of their a--'

Joel Embiid on Andre Drummond, Zaza Pachulia: 'I kicked both of their a--'

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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.

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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How the Sixers are trying to help Tobias Harris snap out of it

How the Sixers are trying to help Tobias Harris snap out of it

They say that shooters shoot.

Tobias Harris has been shooting plenty — they just haven’t been going down.

After going 0 for 11 from three on Tuesday night against the Cavs, Harris went 0 for 3 and 3 of 13 overall in the Sixers’ loss to the Magic in Orlando Wednesday (see observations).

The last three Harris hit was in the first quarter of the Sixers’ loss in Phoenix on Nov. 4. He’s missed his last 23 attempts since.

When Harris was acquired from the Clippers last season, he was shooting 43.4 percent from downtown in a healthy sample size.

So what the heck is going on?

“I'm not making shots, I'm not in a rhythm,” Harris said to reporters postgame. “That's it. Obviously, it's easier said than done but I'm going to find my rhythm and once I do those shots are going to be there and they're going to be able to be made. Until then, I'll watch film and see the looks I can get, see the easy ones I can get to, but when they're not going for me, get to the free throw line. 

“In the fourth quarter I thought that was two questionable whistles, a travel and offensive [foul]. So those are two turnovers that kind of affected our fourth quarter. But I just gotta find a rhythm. That's it.”

On top of missing, Harris just looks indecisive. During early parts of the season, he appeared to be passing up open shots. In his pregame availability before Tuesday’s win, Brett Brown made a point to talk about needing Harris to have a scorer’s mentality.

Over the last two games, Harris seems like he doesn’t know when to shoot the basketball. After shooting so poorly from the outside against Cleveland, in Orlando he appeared to just get caught in between while trying to drive to the basket more.

It just seems like Harris is in his own head.

“I think it's just human nature,” Brown said. “He wants to please, he wants to shoot the ball, he wants to score, we need him to score.”

Harris is an easy target for fan ire. GM Elton Brand gave up an awful lot to get him before last year’s trade deadline. During the summer, the Sixers gave Harris a five-year, $180 million deal — the richest in franchise history.

But to his credit, Harris hasn’t made any excuses. He faced the music Wednesday night after not playing well and not feeling well.

Brown mentioned Tuesday that Harris had been dealing with an illness. Harris didn’t want to take the easy way out and attribute that to anything.

“When I get out there and play, I'm playing,” Harris said. “I'm under the weather, yeah, but if I get out there and play, I believe I can go.”

Forget the big contract and disappointing start for a second — Harris is a worker. He’s worked on his game tirelessly to rise to the level he did last season in L.A. During the offseason, he stepped up as a leader that all of his teammates are eager and willing to follow. He’s been depended upon by the young players and veterans alike.

Now, it may be Harris who needs their support.

“Tobias has had great looks and he's a great player, great shooter,” Ben Simmons said. “I mean, at times, everybody gets down when they're not playing their best game. They know that they can do better. But he's one of those guys. He's always positive. And we all believe in him.”

The Sixers’ road trip continues Friday with a date with the Thunder. Oklahoma City is the site of Harris’ finest game as a Sixer. On Feb. 28 of last year, Harris poured in 32 points and led a tough road win without Joel Embiid.

Maybe the memory of that game will spark something in Harris.

If that doesn't work, what else can you really say?

“Keep shooting,” Brown said. “Don't listen to any of you guys. Don't read anything. Keep shooting.”

After all, shooters shoot.

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Sixers Talk podcast: What is going on with Tobias Harris?

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NBC Sports Philadelphia/USA Today Images

Sixers Talk podcast: What is going on with Tobias Harris?

Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss Tobias Harris' struggles continuing, Ben Simmons' unwillingness to shoot the ball, and why Matisse Thybulle isn't seeing more playing time.

• Another rough night for Harris. What the heck is going on?

• Simmons was strong, but still refuses to shoot the basketball outside the paint.

• Should Thybulle be getting more minutes?

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