After the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 15, Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff called out Joel Embiid and James Harden for how they play the game. He even went as far as saying that Harden
“Not taking anything away from those guys,” Bickerstaff told reporters during his postgame press conference. “They’re phenomenal basketball players, and they know how to play within the rules. I was with James for four years in Houston, and he’s a master at manipulating the rules, and Joel does the same. So you have to be extremely disciplined, but even then, they find a way to create that contact and draw a foul.”
Against the Cavaliers, Embiid and Harden combined for 22 free throw attempts and made 19 of them in a game they won by nine.
This season, Embiid is averaging 11.9 free throw attempts a game, shooting 85.6% from the stripe. Harden is averaging 6.7 free throw attempts a game, shooting 86.8% from the stripe.
J.B. Bickerstaff Believes Joel Embiid Should Have Fouled out
With four minutes and 12 seconds left, Embiid drew his sixth foul. However, head coach Doc Rivers successfully challenged the call, leaving Embiid in the game.
During his postgame press conference, Bickerstaff did not hold back while vocalizing that he did not agree with the call reversal one bit.
“It was a hell of a charge to get Embiid his sixth foul,” Bickerstaff said. “(Evan Mobley) did a helluva job. It’s clear as day that’s a charge. There’s no doubt about it. The call was made on the floor. He stands in between him and the basket. He lowered the shoulder. I thought Evan competed and laid it all out on the line. Guys oughta be rewarded for that. You know what I mean? Like if you’re willing to stick your nose in there, sacrifice your body, you oughta be rewarded for the correct play.”
With the win, the Sixers have clinched their season series against the Cavaliers 2-1, and have a four-game lead over them in the Eastern Conference standings.
Joel Embiid Ranked No. 1 on MVP Rankings
On the March 17 NBA MVP rankings, Michael C. Wright of NBA.com ranked Embiid no. 1 above the other candidates like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic.
Wright cited Embiid’s hot scoring streak, along with his performance against the Cavaliers, as proof of why he is the frontrunner for MVP.
“Seven straight 30-point performances push the NBA’s top scorer to No. 1 in this week’s MVP Ladder. Embiid churned out another gem on Wednesday against Cleveland’s No. 2-rated defense with 36 points, 18 rebounds, and three blocks, marking the third-straight outing the big man has racked up at least 30 points with three blocks,” Wright said.
Wright added that Embiid put himself in rare company with his accomplishments.
“The 29-year-old became the first player since Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal to accomplish that feat, and he took advantage of every opportunity in knocking down all 10 of his free-throw attempts. The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Embiid leads a Sixers squad that is 20-12 on the road with nine more games away from home left on the schedule.”