After a monster first half against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday (AEDT), Joel Embiid experienced some fatigue in the second half and according to head coach Brett Brown, the young big man has 'a lot on his shoulders.'
Embiid exploded for 28 points in the first half on 9-of-15 shooting, pulling down 14 rebounds, with the 76ers in control after taking a 10-point half-time lead. While he finished the game with 40 points and 21 rebounds, he wasn't able to keep up the same energy in the second half.
After being rested last week against the Detroit Pistons, Embiid produced big numbers in his next three games and while the big man capped the week with a big night against the Pacers, Brown believes the physicality in the paint from Indiana's defence took its toll.
"I think their physicality got the better of us," Brown said. "They are the second-ranked defensive team in the NBA, and we felt all of that. I thought they were just more physical.
"I think that Joel's world changed in the second half. Joel was dominant in the first half, it was difficult getting him the ball and when we did we had some turnovers trying to get him the ball. They did a good job of fronting the post, playing in front of him.
"I think he's got a lot on his shoulders as far as the weight of our expectations on him. He certainly expended a lot of energy in the first half, but I felt like he fatigued and I give some of that credit to Indiana because of how physical they were."
Joel Embiid stuffed the stat sheet against the #Pacers #HereTheyCome- NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) December 15, 2018
📊 40 PTS | 21 REB pic.twitter.com/bSlst8yKXn
Embiid, who has experienced some frustration with his role since the arrival of Jimmy Butler, couldn't put his finger on where his second half struggles came from.
"It wasn't enough. I guess next time I've got to get 50 and 25," Embiid told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "It doesn't matter what I had or whatever, at the end of the day we didn't come up with the win."
Butler has been sidelined with a groin injury as the 76ers have struggled to close out games in his absence, with the team now sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference after dropping three of their past five games, however Embiid isn't too fazed with the mini dip in form from his team.
"It's still early," Embiid told ESPN. "We are still learning how to play with each other. We just have to figure out each other's tendencies, like where one likes to have the ball and likes to operate, but it's fine. It's great. We had been winning … the last two games, they were just unfortunate.
"At the end of the day, it's all about winning. We all have the same goal, and it's to win the championship. That's what we are all about."
The 76ers are back in action Monday on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers.