Sixers center Joel Embiid called on his team to play a tougher brand of basketball after a recent tough stretch, one that saw the team lose two straight home games in three days. Before these losses, Philadelphia led the NBA with a 14-0 record at home.
“I feel like, especially tonight, we were playing scared,” Embiid said of the team’s loss against Dallas on Friday, as relayed by Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “Basketball is easy. You just shoot it, pass it, move it. If you don’t got a shot just pass it.
“But tonight, like I said, we didn’t make shots, and defensively we were pretty bad.”
Philadelphia also lost to Miami at home before Friday’s game against Dallas, with both opponents challenging the club by playing a rare brand of zone defense.
Embiid finished with 22 points and 19 rebounds against Miami, following it up with a 33-point, 17-rebound performance against Dallas. The Sixers did manage to defend home court against the Wizards on Saturday, however, winning that game 125-108.
“I think that the influence that our inability lately, to, like, be put on our back heels against the zone has crept into our defense, our psyche, our spirit,” coach Brett Brown said. “And I can’t stand it.
“This is not who we are. It’s not who we are. … I love coaching these guys, because I respect them. And I feel like our competitive spirit has taken a dent because of our inability to score, and I think that any time you get into a mood swing that affects your defense because your offense is doing something, it needs to be addressed.”
The Sixers have a 21-10 record and are six games out of first place in the East, trailing the Bucks, Celtics, Heat and Raptors as of Sunday night. They have upcoming games scheduled against the Pistons on Monday and Bucks on Christmas Day.
Here are some other notes from the Atlantic Division:
- The two Sixers fans who played a role in the confrontation with Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas on Saturday night have received a one-year ban from Wells Fargo Center, according to ESPN. A 76ers spokesperson said the fans admitted to using explicit language and gestures toward Thomas, who walked into the spectator stands and approached the duo before being ejected. “I said: ‘Don’t be disrespectful. I’m a man before anything. Be a fan.’ His response was, ‘I’m sorry, I just wanted a Frosty,'” Thomas said. The Sixers held a promotion where fans would be awarded a free Frosty in the event that an opposing player missed two straight free throws.
- Celtics coach Brad Stevens said that Marcus Smart (eye infection) is improving, but the 25-year-old is still unlikely to play on Christmas Day against Toronto, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston tweets. “Marcus Smart is doing better. He was … going to the facility tonight to get on the floor and shoot a little bit.” Smart hasn’t done much work since the month started, with the team planning on ramping up his activities in the coming days.
- Sixers guard Trey Burke is continuing to thrive in limited opportunities, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Burke finished with 12 points and five rebounds in 15 minutes of work against Washington, shooting 5-of-6 from the floor.