The Los Angeles Lakers had one last chance to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers after getting a stop, down one point with around 15 seconds remaining. With the ball in his hands, Russell Westbrook chose to attack 76ers star center Joel Embiid off the dribble and failed to get up a good shot, sending the Lakers to their third consecutive loss.
Westbrook took some criticism after the game for his decision to attack Embiid, one of the league’s premier big man defenders, and never looking to get the ball to LeBron James. The shot itself wasn’t a great one, but the Lakers guard explained that he was held by Embiid on the drive.
“I was trying to attack and get to the basket,” Westbrook said after the contest. “It’s unfortunate, but he was grabbing my wrist, so I couldn’t get the ball up, but it’s all good.”
Some wondered whether Westbrook was actually looking to get the ball to Wenyen Gabriel, but Westbrook made it clear that he was looking to get a shot up, but couldn’t do so because he was held by Embiid. “I was trying to get my hand up. I couldn’t get my hand up to shoot.”
There were pictures and video that seemed to show what Westbrook was talking about as it appeared Embiid grabbed his right wrist as he attacked the basket. However, in the NBA’s last two minute report, officials disagreed saying only marginal contact occurred, concluding that Lakers guard was not fouled.
To the surprise of no one, Embiid agreed with that ruling. “I don’t think I fouled him,” the 76ers big man said after the game. “Physical play on both sides. You could have called a foul on the other end, too, on the bump. So, it goes both ways.”
Embiid has never been someone to hold his tongue and he would also give his full account of what happened on that last possession. “They were pushing the ball in transition and he was in front of me and I just waved everybody else off,” Embiid said.
“I believe I’m a great defender, so I believe I can get a stop on anybody. [Westbrook] was actually unlucky because he lost the ball and then from there, he kind of had nothing else going. Yeah, I would say it was unlucky.”
Obviously both Westbrook and Embiid have their beliefs on what went down, but Westbrook was clearly frustrated following the Lakers’ third consecutive loss. But even though those emotions are there, the Lakers’ point guard knows they must move on.
“It’s just frustrating, you know, but losing the game, but I know that the game may come down to that last shot. I’ve been in this league a long time. There’s a lot of possessions in this game. So you move on and get ready for tomorrow.”
Darvin Ham was comfortable with Russell Westbrook taking final play
Lakers head coach Darvin Ham also took some criticism as many believed he should have called timeout after the Lakers got a stop with a chance to win the game. Westbrook failed to get a good look and the ball never went to James, but Ham insists he was fine with Westbrook attacking and never considered taking a timeout.
“No, not really,” Ham said after the game. “Down one you got one of our best playmakers going to the rim, one of the best finishers at the rim has the ball with [Joel] Embiid standing in front of them. I’ll take that scenario every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Just got to finish the play. That’s it.”
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