Sixers, Joel Embiid Mad About ‘Fouls They Were Calling’ in Game 1

Joel Embiid

Getty Sixers center Joel Embiid picked up three quick — and very questionable — fouls in Game 1 against the Wizards.

Joel Embiid was mired in foul trouble early after picking up three fouls in the first 17 minutes. He was a virtual non-factor in the first half, with the Sixers’ offense running through Tobias Harris. They still won 125-118.

But Embiid picked up his first and second fouls within four minutes of each other and forced him to the bench with 6:28 left in the first quarter. On the second one, the refs claimed Embiid used his elbow to clear space away from Washington Wizards center Alex Len. Yes, there was incidental contact but it surely wasn’t intentional. Bad call. The first one appeared to be correct.

The third foul was the worst of the bunch and Sixers head coach Doc Rivers gave the refs an earful from the sideline. Embiid simply threw his arms up in the air as Len wildly drove through the lane. The play was going nowhere, but the whistles blew and Embiid exited with nine points in 10 minutes.

“It is frustrating, got to stay focused, got to stay ready,” Embiid told reporters. “Whether my name is called again in the first half or starting the second half, I had to make sure in my mind that I didn’t focus too much on that and just be ready for when I was going to get back on the court.”

Embed came back with a vengeance in the second half, exploding for 21 points before finishing with 30 points while going 12-of-13 from the charity stripe. He added a fourth foul on an offensive charge call that was perfectly played by Wizards guard Bradley Beal. The All-Star center knows he has plenty to improve on heading into Game 2 (May 26).

“I wasn’t playing at my full potential defensively, especially not with the fouls they were calling,” Embiis said. “I just got to do a better job. They had too many easy baskets especially in transition so we got to fix that.”

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No Bad Teams, It’s the Playoffs

The Sixers trailed the Wizards by a point at halftime, raising questions about whether that week off had rusted their engines. Veteran Danny Green admitted that the team was still getting their legs up under them in the first half. The shots simply weren’t falling and Washington seized the moment.

Rust aside, the Wizards entered the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the NBA. They were never going to roll over and die. Embiid made a point to emphasize that eight seeds are still playoff teams. In fact, there have been five instances of eight seeds upsetting the one seed in the playoffs, including the 2012 Sixers.

“It’s the playoffs. There is no bad teams,” Embiid said. “When you make it to this level, it doesn’t matter if you are the eighth seed, teams are good. If you made it this far, that means you’re good enough. The top seed can lose to the eighth seed, it’s happened before. And every game is going to be competitive.”

Get Ready for Dogfights in Round 1

Look around and you’ll notice a pattern: every first-round series was relatively close in Game 1. The average margin of victory this past weekend was 7.25 points, with only three teams winning by double digits. That’s a tribute to the competitive nature of the league, plus the introduction of a grueling play-in tournament that only hardened higher seeds like Washington.

“I think this whole playoff series, game in and game out, you’re going to see dogfights all around the league,” Harris said. “Washington, they’ve been one of the hottest teams after the All-Star break in the whole NBA. For us, we know the power that they have. They have guys that can make shots on that team, and that just adds focus to our group and what we need to be through this whole series.”

If the Sixers play to their full potential — something Sixers players fully admit they didn’t do in Game 1 — then watch out. They should be dominating and getting minutes for their bench guys late in playoff games.

“It’s up to us to make sure we play the right way,” Embiid said. “We got to play as good as we think we can, defensively and offensively — just moving the ball and getting the ball to the right guys, and we’ve done it all season — and when we play that way, it usually results in a blowout.”

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