There’s never been a question as to whether Joel Embiid is a tremendous talent, but it’s whether he can keep his superstar potential on the court. Wednesday night, it was on display all over STAPLES Center to the tune of a career-high 46 points as he dismantled the Los Angeles Lakers.
“He's a heckuva player,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said after the game. “He's hitting pull-up 18 footers. They used him as the man to enter the ball from the post, and he's relocating to the strong-side corner and hitting threes.
“He's a problem. Our guys played really hard tonight, and you've gotta give Philly a lot of credit because they just kept making those shots down the stretch.”
Embiid was 14-of-20 from the field, draining 16 of his 19 free-throws. He also pulled down a game-high 15 boards, dished out seven assists and swatted away seven shots. To say he was productive in his 34 minutes on the court would be an understatement.
Here’s a full video breakdown of Embiid tearing through the Lakers’ defensive gameplan, which I’ll go into finer detail below:
Joel Embiid tears through the Lakers' defensive plans
The Los Angeles Lakers did everything they could to slow Joel Embiid down, but he tore through their defensive gameplan relentlessly. Take an in-depth look here: http://bit.ly/2zGBVbvPosted by Silver Screen and Roll on Thursday, November 16, 2017
Joel danced around whatever the Lakers’ defense threw at him all night, even if Brook Lopez was right in front of him after perfect rotations:
“I was just playing basketball, being aggressive, just like I was against the Clippers. Too bad there wasn’t any trash talking out there, but I still had fun and I got going. I just wanted to be aggressive, that’s my new mentality,” Embiid said after the game.
Going bigger with Andrew Bogut proved fruitless for LA, with Embiid being far too nimble and skilled for Bogut to keep up with:
Julius Randle didn’t fair much better when he was on an island against Embiid, having to overcompensate trying to stay in front of the Philadelphia 76ers’ mountain:
“They kept throwing the ball to me in the post, and I kept finding new ways to score the ball. Went to the free-throw line, that’s what I was best at last year, and I felt like I did a great job. Me going to the free-throw line, guys they don’t really know what to do after that.
“Me using different moves, and attacking them, so it puts them in... I don’t know... they didn’t really know what to do,” Embiid said.
Embiid was digging into his bag of footwork tricks, and there wasn’t much the Lakers could do. Randle did just about everything in his power in the possession below (arguably even drawing what should have been a travel), but the hoop-plus-the-harm was still there for Joel:
“He's a really good player with a really good skillset. I think our help-side wasn't there early enough, I think we were a step slow a little bit. With a guy like that, you just have to send different defenses just to stop what he's doing,” Brandon Ingram said while reflecting on the game.
Ingram was the tool Walton deployed most often as the weak-side helper, but it still wasn’t enough to slow down Embiid. He was still busy drawing fouls... :
... and finding ways to finish, regardless of Ingram providing his massive wingspan as a help defender:
“I just went out there, and played basketball, and played the right way. I wasn’t forcing nothing, I was playing with my teammates, passing the ball. I turned the ball over less tonight, so that’s a plus, that’s what I’m most happy about tonight,” Embiid said.
Embiid’s passing was a big part of what made him unstoppable against the Lakers Wednesday night. Even when they forced him into an uncomfortable position, he “played the right way,” found an open teammate, and kept the 76ers’ offense rolling:
“Joel Embiid killed us. Had about 50 points, I don’t know. Any time someone gets it going like that, and they gave the ball to him every single time, and we couldn’t guard him...” Kyle Kuzma said following the loss, keeping it simple and to the point.
76ers head coach Brett Brown, meanwhile, was pleased with how his franchise big man played, noting that sometimes his team just has to realize they have an otherworldly talent in Embiid to dump it down to.
“He just was dominant,” Coach Brown said. “It’s always that slippery slope of playing with pace and movement, and then realizing you’ve got Joel Embiid. And tonight we realized that we had Joel Embiid, and the stat line he produced was just dominant.”
That it was, Coach Brown. That it was. The Lakers did a good job of executing a strategy designed to slow Embiid down, throwing an array of tactics at him, but sometimes it’s a simple as good offense beating good defense.