Boston guard Marcus Smart said it was tough to guard Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid. “It’s tough. Especially when we’ve got our hands up a lot of the times and he flails and gets the call,” Smart said. The 76ers won Wednesday’s game, 117-109. Chris Szagola/Associated Press

The Black tribute band honoring Tommy Heinsohn was clearly visible on the shoulder of Marcus Smart’s jersey during his video conference after the Boston Celtics lost to the Sixers on Wednesday night, 117-109.

The Boston guard may have been channeling the former Celtic legend, who rarely withheld his opinions of officiating as a broadcaster.

76ers center Joel Embiid scored 17 of his 42 points from the free throw line as Philadelphia beat the Celtics on Wednesday, 117-109. Chris Szagola/Associated Press

The Sixers scored 36 points at the line on 45 attempts. Joel Embiid had 17 of his 42 points on free throws. His 21 attempts were more than the entire Celtics team, which went 13 for 20.

Smart didn’t like it and said so.

“He shot alone, himself, 21 free throws. Our team shot 20. Can’t beat that,” Smart said holding a stat sheet and shaking his head. “They shot 36 for 45. We shot 13 for 20. Hard to win that way.

“It’s tough. Especially when we’ve got our hands up a lot of the times and he flails and gets the call,” Smart continued. “At the other end, we got our guys attacking the rim, getting a lot of contact and we’re just not getting the whistles. It’s tough to play like that.”

When Smart’s complaint was relayed to him, Embiid fired back.

“Marcus Smart just told me that I flail a lot?” Embiid said. “Come on. I’m sure he knows himself, and he knows his game, too, he does a lot of that. And I don’t think I do. I mean, if you watch basketball and if you’re a student of the game and if you actually pay attention during the game, we all see. Every single foul, I get fouled.

“The game is physical. Other teams tend to try to be extra physical against me. And I guess I’m just smarter than everybody else. I just take advantage of it. I just take advantage of how they’re guarding me. You can call that, I don’t know, basketball IQ.”

Embiid is tied with Washington’s Bradley Beal for second in the NBA this season with an average of 8.3 made free throws per game.

Coach Brad Stevens was a bit more diplomatic.

“We have to do our best to play without fouling,” Stevens said. “I’ll go back and watch and we’ll go through each one and figure out what we need to do better. He’s going to score some, but 42 is too much. It’s tough to win a game when the best player on the other team gets 42 points. How can we be better? He handled the double pretty well. He had a huge impact on the game. We’ll look at the film and see where we can improve.”

Daniel Theis said the key is not letting Embiid get the ball.

“We know Joel is probably the best big in the whole league. He’s a great player. Obviously, he shot a lot of free throws, too,” he said. “It’s tough for us when we play physical and he’s still drawing a lot of fouls, too. We have to do a better job getting the ball out of his hands and we have to keep him off the free-throw line as well.”

Kemba Walker had a few plays where he thought he was fouled and didn’t go to the line. But he tipped his cap to Embiid’s ability to draw calls.

“I’ve been around for a long time. I have a good relationship with a lot of the officials. I always think I get fouled. What player don’t think they got fouled?” Walker said laughing. “Embiid is smart. He knows how to get fouled. He understands that part of the game. He’s been doing that for a while now. He’s a huge body. There’s nothing you can do but to foul him sometimes. We’ve got to help our bigs. Stopping Embiid is not a one-on-one thing. That’s close to being impossible.”

On top of that, Smart objected to a fourth-quarter jump ball between Jaylen Brown and Danny Green that he didn’t think went straight up.

“The ball went right to Danny Green,” Smart said. “It was a jump ball, but they should have just given him the ball if you’re going to just throw it right to his side instead of throwing it to the middle. There’s no way Danny Green is outjumping Jaylen Brown and winning a jump ball. Sorry.”

KEMBA WALKER was still on a minutes restriction against the Sixers, and the Celtics could have used more of him.

After looking rusty in his debut in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Knicks, Walker looked like himself Wednesday. He had 19 points and six assists in 22 minutes, which was near the top end of how much Stevens wanted to use him this early in his comeback.

Walker was especially sharp in the first half with 17 points in 12 minutes. Attempting to save him for the end of the game, Stevens didn’t bring him back again until late in the third quarter. His hot shooting didn’t survive the long stint on the bench.

“It was tough. (Stevens) told me early. I was fine with it. It was definitely kind of hard to get my rhythm again,” he said. “At the same time, I’m just glad to be on the court and playing with my teammates, just trying to get better. I’m going to keep playing hard and doing why I can to help the team be successful.”

Stevens came away optimistic.

“I thought he did a pretty good job. It’s hard to play in five-minute stints and then not play for however long it was before he went back in,” Stevens said. “I thought he’s got his burst, which is really encouraging. I think we’ll get better as time goes on as a team.”

Walker thought he could have played more, but understood why he didn’t.

“Yeah, I definitely felt like I could have. I’m really just working my way back,” Walker said. “It’s going to take time to get those minutes up. I’m still trying to get the speed of the game down. I’m a little behind. Just a little bit. I’m not going to rush the process. Just stay focused and not get frustrated.”

GRIZZLIES: Memphis is the latest team that will have a coronavirus-related extended break from games, after the league announced that the Grizzlies’ next three contests will be postponed because of a lack of available players.

Friday’s game at Portland and home games Sunday and Monday against Sacramento have been postponed, the NBA said. That decision came one day after a Memphis at Portland game scheduled for Wednesday was also called off.

“The games are being postponed due to unavailable players for the Grizzlies and contact tracing for other players on their roster, and in order to ensure the health and safety of players on both teams,” the NBA said.

The three additional postponements bring the total of games that have been postponed so far this season to 20, with all but one coming since Jan. 10. Washington – which will go at least 13 days between games after a half-dozen of its players tested positive – has had six games called off.

THURSDAY’S GAME

LAKERS 113, BUCKS 106: LeBron James scored a season-high 34 points for Los Angeles in the opener of a seven-game road trip.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points and 12 rebounds for Milwaukee but committed nine turnovers.

 

 

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