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Joel Embiid: 'The Ball Didn't Find Me' Late in 76ers' Christmas Loss to Celtics

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2018

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 25:  Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on before the game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on December 25, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid lamented his lack of touches late in his team's 121-114 overtime defeat to the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day. 

After the game, Embiid accepted his share of blame for the loss but seemingly took a shot at the team's overall game plan, per the Philadelphia Daily News' David Murphy:

"I felt like I could have done more. I didn't get the ball. The ball didn't find me in the fourth quarter and overtime, so, in those situations, I've got to show up, but I also have to be put in the right situations to be able to help this team. I felt like I wasn't in the right situation. We lost. I put this heavily on me because I know I could have done more, and the more I was playing, all day they couldn't guard me, and they were playing a lot of one-on-one, double-teaming on the first dribbles, but I have to find a way to adjust through that and just be myself."

Embiid finished with a team-high 34 points and attempted 17 shots. Between the fourth quarter and overtime, though, he scored just four points and didn't have a single field-goal attempt in the overtime period.

This isn't the first time Embiid has sounded a bit frustrated with his role in the team either.

While one could argue the subtext of Embiid's comments were directed toward Brown, his assessment hit on what was a general question following the Jimmy Butler trade.

Spacing was already a problem for the Sixers before that move and they had to sacrifice two solid three-point shooters (Dario Saric and Robert Covington) in order to acquire Butler. By building the offense around Embiid, Butler and Ben Simmons, Philadelphia risked letting Embiid get hounded in the paint because opponents could sag off Butler and Simmons on the perimeter.

By the numbers, Butler's arrival hasn't significantly impacted Embiid's touches close to the basket. According to NBA.com, Embiid was averaging 9.5 shots inside 10 feet before the Butler trade. Since then, he's averaging 9.3 shots inside 10 feet while hitting a higher percentage of his attempts (58.7 percent pre-Butler and 66.5 percent post-Butler).

But Tuesday's game was a perfect example of how a good defensive team can limit Embiid's effectiveness. The Celtics allowed Simmons, in particular, to have a ton of space away from the basket in order to keep a second defender close to Embiid.

That's a strategy teams will utilize at every opportunity in a seven-game playoff series.

Although it's too early to say the Embiid-Butler-Simmons trio is destined to fail, the early returns have provided cause for concern.

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