Joel Embiid says Sixers are playing scared amid three-game losing skid

Eric He
Yahoo Sports Contributor

Joel Embiid is never one to hold back from voicing his opinions, so with the Philadelphia 76ers in a bit of a funk, he was honest in telling everybody the reason why.

The Sixers fell 117-98 to the Dallas Mavericks at home on Friday, with the crowd booing its home team at several moments. It was their third straight loss — the Sixers lost to the Miami Heat on Wednesday and Brooklyn on Sunday.

They are in action again on Saturday, playing the Washington Wizards at home.

But Embiid was none too happy after Friday’s loss, which dropped the Sixers to sixth in the Eastern Conference. He felt that the team was afraid to test zone defenses and unwilling to shoot the ball.

"I feel like, especially tonight, we were playing scared," Embiid said, via ESPN. "Basketball is easy. You just shoot it, pass it, move it. If you don't got a shot just pass it. But tonight, like I said, we didn't make shots, and defensively we were pretty bad."

Can’t beat the zone

The 76ers have seen a heavy dose of zone from opponents to try and stop Philadelphia’s key players — Embiid, Al Horford, Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons. While everyone besides Simmons has the ability to knock down outside shots, the Sixers shot just 10-of-34 from beyond-the-arc on Friday. This followed a 12-of-39 performance against the Heat and a 5-of-26 outing against the Nets from deep.

Head coach Brett Brown told ESPN that the NBA is a “copycat league,” and to the detriment of the 76ers, teams have figured out that playing zone has rattled Philadelphia.

"I think that the influence that our inability lately, to, like, be put on our back heels against the zone has crept into our defense, our psyche, our spirit," Brown said. "And I can't stand it.”

A frustrating issue

The Sixers boast as much talent as any other team in the league, and given their core and recent playoff exists, this season is one with heightened expectations.

And given that the zone is a standard form of defense that teams at all levels of basketball use, it really shouldn’t be that difficult for an NBA team to figure out a strategy to combat it — namely, make outside shots and force the defense to come guard you.

Or, as Embiid would say, don’t play scared.

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