When the final buzzer sounded in Game 5 between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, the score read 114-112 in favor of the home team Celtics.
Not only did a close-fought Game 5 go Boston’s way, but the entire series did. As a result, Joel Embiid and the Sixers were sent packing.
Unlike his teammates who stayed on the court to congratulate the Celtics and shake hands, Embiid rushed off the court and headed straight to the locker room.
After all, it was Embiid who missed what would have been the game-tying point-blank shot with just over 10 seconds to go in regulation. Down on the low block, the big man had a solid look at a shot that he consistently makes, but failed to convert it when it mattered most. To make matters worse, he also knocked the ball out of bounds while trying to get the rebound, handing over possession to the Celtics.
When thinking of Embiid, the word “dominant” is consistently used, and for good reason. Due to his ability to creatively drop 30 points, pull down 20 boards or swat away five shots on any given night, he’s as well-rounded of a center that there is in the game today. But, it’s clear that he hasn’t established himself as a clutch player yet.
The proof is in the numbers.
With his miss on the layup as well as another within the final minute on Wednesday, Embiid is now 0-for-8 on game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final minute this season. That’s the worst such mark among any player who’s taken that many attempts.
Outside of the closing seconds, Embiid turned in a dominant performance in Game 5, posting 27 points and 12 rebounds. In the fourth quarter, Celtics coach Brad Stevens began double-teaming him as a result, as he was having his way with Al Horford on the interior.
“He had the look like he was going to get where he wanted to go,” said Stevens of Embiid, per Owen Pence of The Boston Globe. “I felt like if we were going to play Al the whole fourth quarter with four fouls than we were going to have to double the post. If you just let him bang-bang-bang, it puts you in a precarious position where you’re either going to foul or give up a layup.”
Ironically, the shot that Embiid missed was one of the best looks he saw all game long and it came against single coverage by Aron Baynes. He just couldn’t convert.
It’s clear to see that Embiid plays with a ton of heart and passion. He isn’t afraid to show it before, during and after games. He also dishes out a lot of trash talk. But, if he expects to gain universal respect, he’s going to have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
Embiid isn’t yet a clutch player and has his work cut out for him in that regard. As seen in the past, it’s difficult to develop the “mamba mentality” that Kobe Bryant made famous, as did Michael Jordan before him. LeBron James is currently is showcasing that type of mentality on a nightly basis. If the Sixers’ big man wants to take the next step, that’s where he will need to improve.
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