Heat Rookie Sounds Off on Facing ‘One of the Best Bigs’ in NBA

Precious Achiuwa

Getty Miami Heat center Precious Achiuwa scored

Joel Embiid trolls a lot of people both on the basketball court and off it. He’s a master agitator. Precious Achiuwa got his first taste of the Philadelphia 76ers big man on Tuesday and held his emotions in check for 48 minutes.

The Miami Heat rookie center kept his composure after the game, too. Achiuwa, a first-round pick (20th overall) out of Memphis, said all the right things about Embiid while talking about the “learning process” in the NBA. Meanwhile, the man known as “The Process” scored 45 points and pulled down 16 rebounds in a dominating performance, single-handedly willing the 76ers to a 137-134 victory over the Heat.

The confident Nigerian could do little to contain Embiid on the defensive end, but he did make him work on offense where he scratched and clawed his way to 17 points and 13 rebounds. He’ll be better for wear.

“He’s a really good player, we all know that,” Achiuwa told reporters after the game. “For me, going in, I haven’t really played guys that good, at his level. Today was just one of those examples, going against a really good player, one of the best bigs in the league. I think it’s a learning process, just being able to quickly adjust and understand, being able to know guys’ tendencies — and what they like to do, how they drive, that stuff, and it’ll help me moving forward.”

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Tough Loss, Watch the Film and Learn

The backdrop to the Heat’s second loss in three games was the nuclear bomb dropped on their rotation. Eight players were forced out due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, including starters Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic.

Achiuwa drew the unenviable task of filling in for Adebayo and making his first NBA start matched up against Embiid, a three-time All-Star and MVP candidate through 10 games this year. Give the rookie credit. He battled and Miami nearly pulled out “the dub,” to quote a popular Butler-ism.

“It was a tough loss. We had a couple moments where we felt like we could have won the game,” Achiuwa said. “We were in position to win the game and then a couple of things happened here and there.”

Like a ridiculous game-tying shot from Embiid over Achiuwa to force overtime. But there are no moral victories in the NBA. Back to the drawing board for a Thursday night rematch in Philadelphia.

“At the end of the day, we didn’t win the game,” Achiuwa said. “The good thing is it’s a quick turnaround. I’m going to go back watch film, learn from today, and the come back a lot stroenger and win the game Thursday.”

Embiid Weighs In on NBA Scheduling

The 76ers had way more star power than the Heat on Tuesday but doesn’t mean they weren’t playing at a disadvantage as well. Seven Philly players were ruled out due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols: Furkan Korkmaz, Seth Curry, Tobias Harris, Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, Vincent Poirier, Terrance Ferguson.

Head coach Doc Rivers sent out a starting lineup featuring Embiid, Ben Simmons, Mike Scott, Danny Green, Tyrese Maxey. They combined for 111 of the 76ers’ 137 points in an eight-man rotation. Prior to tip-off, Embiid let it be known that he wasn’t happy. He thinks the league should consider postponing their games.

“It just seems like every other game keeps getting (postponed), but us, I guess the league keeps making us play,” Embiid said, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “So, it’s unfortunate, but it’s the next man up. Can’t complain about it. Winning still counts, losses still count. We need to get all these wins. We need to keep fighting until those guys are back, and that’s our job.”


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