Embiid: ‘Disappointing' that Knicks fans had heavy presence for Sixers' Game 4 loss

Embiid: ‘Disappointing' that Knicks fans had heavy presence for Sixers' Game 4 loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

There was much more glee around Wells Fargo Center late Sunday afternoon than after a typical Sixers playoff loss.

Knicks fans traveled very well, ratcheted up their volume during New York’s runs, and celebrated a 3-1 series advantage at the end of the day.

Joel Embiid would certainly have liked a clear, conventional home-court advantage.

“Disappointing,” Embiid said following the Sixers’ 97-92 Game 4 loss. “I love our fans. I think it’s unfortunate. I’m not calling them out, but it is disappointing. Obviously you’ve got a lot of Knicks fans and they’re down the road, but I’ve never seen it. I’ve been here 10 years.

“It kind of pisses me off, especially because Philly is considered a sports town. They’ve always shown up and I don’t think that should happen. It’s not OK.”

New York’s fans also had a prominent presence during the Sixers’ two decisive regular-season home losses vs. the Knicks — a 36-point blowout in January and a 14-point defeat in February.

Embiid summoned his all-world level to lift his team to victory in Game 3 of this first-round matchup, but the Sixers were dreadful in the final minutes Sunday. They went scoreless from a Kelly Oubre Jr. dunk with 5:04 remaining in the fourth quarter to an Embiid foul shot with 54.3 seconds left. That was Embiid’s only point of the fourth period.

After Embiid played the entire third quarter, Sixers head coach Nick Nurse kept him in for the whole fourth as well and gave him a season-high 44 total minutes. He shot 0 for 5 from the floor in the fourth. Two of those misses were jumpers taken out of necessity with the shot clock almost up. One was an after-timeout, catch-and-shoot three-point try with under five seconds to go.

“We obviously didn’t score enough,” Nurse said. “But again, they were sending multiple people at him and you’ve got to make the right play. And I think he did.”

Continuing a series-long theme, the day still would’ve panned out fine for the Sixers if they’d been adequate late on the defensive glass. The Knicks recorded seven offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter.

For the series, the Knicks have racked up 61 offensive boards and 22 of them have come in the final period. The Sixers have a mere six offensive rebounds across the series’ four fourth quarters so far.

The clarity of the Knicks’ approach is one reason they were the NBA’s best offensive rebounding team during the regular season, too. Star guard Jalen Brunson does it all — a franchise playoff-record 47 points and 10 assists Sunday — and practically every other Knick is hungry to grab whatever he misses.

“I think part of it is obviously their best player that they trust and they don’t care if he takes 40 shots a game,” Embiid said. “I think most of the time when you’re in rotation or when you’re trying to load up to make sure he doesn’t get easy shots, that kind of gives them a lot of open lanes to just attack the offensive glass. It almost seems like they know he’s going to shoot it and they’re just getting ready to offensive rebound. If you’re in the gap … by the time you turn around, your man is already past you. And now you’re left with a 3-on-2.

“I don’t even think that was the issue tonight. I think we had a lot of bad bounces. You look at the game, every single shot it just felt like it kept falling in their hands. Sometimes you can do the best job possible to try to box out, but if the ball doesn’t bounce your way, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

The Knicks are now set to play Game 5 on their true home turf Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Sixers can’t afford for any blend of factors — the crowd, the bounces, the clutch execution — to result in another loss.

“One at a time,” Embiid said. “We know we're good enough. Tonight, we didn’t make shots. So we’ve just got to keep trusting ourselves. We know the pace was not good in the fourth quarter, so we’ve got to play faster. … Keep trusting each other and go out and play. We’ve got no pressure. We're the seven-seed, down 3-1, a lot of guys are hurt. I don't know why we would feel the pressure.

“So we should just go out and play our best basketball. One at a time — win one. Come back home, win another one. And then Game 7 over there, so I'm looking forward to it. Yeah, no pressure.”