By Steve Kelly
Sixers rookie phenom Joel Embiid got his wish last night:
The 7-2 center guarded the Celtics’ 5-9 Isaiah Thomas on switches!
Thomas, coming off a pick-and-roll with teammate Al Horford, raced past Embiid late in the first half and finished an and-1 layup after Embiid fouled from behind while trying to chase him.
The force of the contact knocked one of Thomas’ shoes off and, as Thomas collected his footwear, he playfully barked at Embiid. The two were all smiles as Embiid slung his arm over Thomas’ shoulder after the play.
“[At shootaround] he said he was going to guard me on a switch. I just said, ‘Nobody can stop me on a switch, especially not your big ass,'” said Thomas, who scored 24 points while helping Boston rally from as much as a 14-point deficit for a 110-106 triumph.
“[Embiid] started laughing so I said, ‘I seen what you said earlier,’ because I got him on one.”
Embiid told reporters at the morning shootaround that “I take pride in stopping the other position, especially other point guards. I hope I get switched on to him. He’s fast and he’s kind of short, so it’s harder, but it would be a great test for me.”
Embiid helped the 76ers keep Thomas under wraps more than most teams lately.
Philly often sent two defenders at Thomas, who has now scored 20 or more points in 20 straight games, the longest streak in the NBA this season.
Thomas did have a career night for the third straight game but not in a good way. Last Friday he scored a career-high 52 points against the Heat, and on Tuesday he put up a career-best 15 assists against the Jazz. But on Friday night he matched a career high with seven turnovers.
“They’re a pretty good defensive team in the halfcourt,” said Thomas. “I just tried to make the right play and I turned the ball over a little too much. I’m just glad we got the win.”
Embiid had a couple of loud dunks against Boston and finished with a team-best 23 points. Embiid is the first 76er since Allen Iverson (2006) to have five straight games of 23 points or more.
And despite barking at him on the court, Thomas gushed about Embiid’s potential.
“He’s talented. He’s going to be special,” said Thomas. “He has the right attitude. You can tell from afar he’s a workhorse, he’s unselfish, he’s a big body that can do it all. Once they get some really good pieces around him, they’re going to turn it on.”