12:07 P.M. EASTERN TIME.
After the Philadelphia 76ers won 117-109 with Joel Embiid against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night, Celtics guard Marcus Smart expressed his displeasure with the way the game was refereed.
Embiid hit and took more free throws than the Celtics as a team, hitting 17 of 21 from the line versus 13 of 20 for Boston. The Sixers finished 36 of 45 as a team.
We can’t win, Mr. Smart said. It’s hard to win like this.
It’s hard to win when Embiid – who finished with 42 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals – plays like he did against Boston, where he continued to firmly defend his position as the league’s MVP during the first month of the season.
Whichever defender threw himself at him, whether it was Tristan Thompson at the start or Daniel Theis at the finish, Embiid made his mark, scoring in double figures in each of the first three quarters and then scoring six points in the final seven minutes, as well as some key runs that helped take down the Celtics.
Part of that journey, however, included three trips from Embiid to the fault line – trips that Smart thought they had made in part by embellishing the ignition.
It’s hard, Mr. Smart said. It’s hard. Especially when we often put our hands up and he waves his and gets the whistle, and on the other hand, our guys attack the rim, make a lot of contact and we don’t get the whistle. It’s hard to play like this. It’s hard.
If the roles were reversed, I would do it every time. I mean, I’d be at the free throw line too if I went to the free throw line every time I got sick or hit. I mean, it’s hard not to get into that rhythm when you’re hitting 21 free throws and they’re hacking you on the other end.
It’s hard, but we fought. The team did a great job. We were there to give ourselves a win and try to win it again Friday.
Embiid was informed of Smart’s comments in a post-match interview. Of course, the big shot had some ideas about how Smart saw the game, pointing out that Smart is well-known enough to sell calls to officials.
Marcus Smart just told me that I pray a lot? says Embiid. Let’s go. I’m sure he knows himself and his game, he does a lot. I don’t think so. I mean, if you watch basketball, and if you’re a student of the game, and if you’ve really been paying attention during the game, we can all see. Every time I make a mistake, I get screwed. They’re probably not calling everyone like they did last time. With three minutes to go, I went up and there was a foul, they knew it but didn’t report it. So there are many who don’t call, and many who call because you have to.
The game is physical. Other teams are trying to be more physical against me. And I guess I’m just smarter than everyone else. I only use this. I just use the way they protect me. You can call it, I don’t know, Basketball IQ, like you’ve got your hand up, I’m going to take advantage of it and go to the free throw line because I know I’m a great free thrower and it’s my best chance to help the team win in these situations.
By Wednesday, it was clear: Although the bizarre wrong decision could be challenged, Embiid was the dominant figure in the game. When Jason Tatum sat down, the Celtics had four players scoring for a slim 19-point lead: Jaylen Brown (26), Smart (25), Theis (23) and Kemba Walker (19 in just 22 minutes).
But despite this aggressive display, the Celtics couldn’t do anything with the 6-foot, 80-pound Embiid. He used the advantage of his size to take one look at the basket after another.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens, when asked about Embiid’s repeated attempts to surrender to the charity band, said only that his team needed to do more to keep him.
We have to do everything we can to play flawlessly, Stevens said. I’m going to go back to everyone and figure out what the best thing to do is. He’ll score a few points, but 42 is too many. It becomes difficult to win a game when the best player on the other team scores 42 points.
They need to come back to how we can improve. Not only did he score those points, but he also made a couple of good double-doubles allowing him to score three points. He had a huge impact on today’s game and was fantastic.
Wednesday marked the second time in eight days that Embiid scored 40 points at home against his Eastern Conference compatriot. He scored 45 points, including 35 in the second half and 12 in overtime. January against the heat of Miami.
The win allowed Philadelphia to move to 10-2 when Embiid plays this season. Coach Doc Rivers and Embiid’s teammates then sang his praises.
That’s not it at all, it’s probably an MVP-caliber game, said Tobias Harris, who scored 22 points. Night after night he checks the game, checks the paint.
He’s certainly had an MVP year, and one of the most important things is that we continue to support him game after game, and we’re making progress, even with him, throughout this year. But I’m happy for him, because that’s what he’s invested in, and when you win or excel as a team, then of course you get that acclaim.