BOSTON – Joel Embiid is far from being offended.
The 76ers center knows the Boston Celtics are more concerned with limiting his team’s three-point specialists than double-teaming him in the post. The Celtics would be content with him scoring 30-plus points as long as they win the game.
That is what happened in the Celtics’ 117-101 Game 1 victory Monday night at TD Garden. That’s what Boston hopes will happen when the teams meet for Game 2 on Thursday night.
“I don’t think that’s disrespectful,” Embiid said, “because at the end of the day, when you look at the last game, I felt like I was in a zone where it kind of helped me. Since I came back, I didn’t find that rhythm offensively that I had months before that.
“That game, I felt like it brought me back to the L.A. game. That dominant performance.”
On Monday, Embiid had 31 points on 12-of-21 shooting to go with 13 rebounds, five assists, one steals and three turnovers in his fourth game back after missing 10 straight with a fractured orbital bone near his left eye. Eighteen of his points came on 7-for-10 shooting after intermission.
The Los Angeles game he referenced was his 46-point, 15-rebound, seven-assist and seven-block performance in the Sixers’ 115-109 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 15 at the Staples Center.
Embiid became the first player in NBA history with at least 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks and seven assists in a game. He also was the first Sixer to score at least 40 since Allen Iverson had 45 on Nov. 27, 2006.
“So that brought me back to that,” Embiid said of Monday’s game.
He also pointed out that the Sixers made only 5 of 26 three-pointers in a 16-point Game 1 setback.
“If we made five more threes, that would have been one-point,” Embiid said. “If we would have played better defense than we did, because we were absolutely ridiculous defensively, we win the game.”
That’s why he’s not concerned with the Celtics willingness to surrender 40 points to him while focusing on the shooters. Nor is he convinced that the Celtics will use that actual game plane. That’s because he thinks his scoring 40, combined with more made three-pointers and better team defense is a winning combination for the Sixers.
Markelle Fultz remains upbeat
From the time the Sixers drafted Markelle Futlz first overall in June’s draft, the guard talked about being a team player. Nothing changed Wednesday when he was asked about not playing in each of the last three playoff games.
“Whether I’m on the court or on the bench, I’m going to be helping,” Fultz said. “I’m going to try to distract the other players when they are on the court. I’m going to do that.”
Asked how, Fultz said he’s going to talk trash to those opposing players from the bench.
However, he was Ben Simmons’ primary backup point guard at the start of the postseason. That didn’t last long.
In what was his last game played, Fultz was limited to 4 minutes, 21 seconds in the first half of Game 3 of the first-round series against the Miami Heat on March 19. However, T.J.McConnell took over the reserve point-guard duties in the second half while he watched from the bench. He only saw 4:38 of action — all in the first half — of the Game 2 on March 16.
All that came after Fultz played 13:57 in Game 1 of that series and saw action in the final 10 regular-season games. He missed 68 straight games for what the team labeled a right shoulder injury. However, he actually had the yips, according to multiple sources.
Because he played the entire season, the Sixers consider McConnell the better option.
Fultz said there’s no animosity.
“I love that dude,” Fultz said of McConnell. “We love each other. We support each other no matter what. When we come out of the game, I keep his spirits up. I tell him to keep going. Sometimes he comes out mad. Sometimes he comes out happy.
“Like I said, this is brotherhood. We all love each other.”