Marcus Smart sat at the podium on Wednesday night and looked down a box score before he answered any questions. The lopsided numbers he saw surely contributed to some additional frustration in his postgame press conference that was apparent all night in Boston’s 115-109 loss to the Sixers, led by Joel Embiid’s 42 points on 21 free throw attempts.
“He shot — alone, himself — 21 free throws,” Smart declared. “Our team shot 20. Can’t beat that. They shot 36 for 45, we shot 13 for 20. Hard to win that way.”
The numbers were even more uneven in the second half between the two squads. Philadelphia piled up a 25-5 edge after intermission at the charity stripe and a 17-0 advantage in the fourth quarter, with that spread serving as the difference in a 31-17 points edge for the Sixers in the final frame. Boston’s offense went cold late and they found themselves sending Philadelphia freebies until they ultimately squandered away the lead in the final four minutes. Embiid was front and center drawing a host of whistles from Tristan Thompson, Daniel Theis and anyone else who put up a fight in the post against the All-Star big man. The lack of an answer from Boston’s standpoint led to plenty of dismay from Smart after the game.
“It’s tough. It is tough,” Smart said. “Especially when we’ve got our hands up a lot of the times, and he flails and gets the call. And then down on the other end, we’ve got our guys attacking the rim, getting a lot of contact and we’re just not getting the whistle. It’s tough to play like that. It’s tough.
“If the roles were reversed I’d do it every time. I mean, I’d be on too if every time I threw my arms up, or every time I got touched I’m going to the free-throw line. I mean, it’s kind of hard not to get into a rhythm that way when you shoot 21 free throws alone and they allow you to hack on the other end. It’s tough, but we battled. The team did a good job. We were right there to give ourselves a win and try to run it back again on Friday.”
The Sixers center took issue with Smart’s comments when they were relayed after the game.
“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 big man is averaging just shy of 10 free throws per game and has clearly embraced trying to exploit the fact that