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“I couldn’t get my hand up to shoot because he [Joel Embiid] was grabbing it” - Russell Westbrook explains the disastrous last possession that gave the game away to the Philadelphia 76ers

Embiid was asked the same question about the last play, and described it as "great defense."
January 15, 2023; Joel Embiid defends Russell Westbrook on the last play of the Philadelphia 76ers' 113-112 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Crypto.com Arena

Joel Embiid, Russell Westbrook

The Los Angeles Lakers dropped their third straight game, this time at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers, who were led by Joel Embiid’s 35 points. The game came down to one possession, which involved Russell Westbrook, who could’ve won the game for Los Angeles but instead turned the ball over. 

Westbrook, who had himself a night ranking up his 199th career triple-double of 20 points along with 14 rebounds and 11 assists, believes that he was fouled by Joel Embiid in the last play.

Too many things have gone wrong in the possession

The Sixers were up 113-112 with less than 15 seconds to go as the Lakers had the last possession. Head coach Darvin Ham, who had two timeouts remaining, opted not to call one as Westbrook brought the ball down the court. Unfortunately for the 9-time All-Star, he lost his handle in the middle of the play and still tried to go to the rim to attempt his shot, which resulted in a successful defensive stop by Embiid. 

Westbrook explained postgame that his attempt didn’t go as he planned because he believed Embiid grabbed his hand.

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“I couldn’t get my hand up to shoot because he was grabbing it,” Westbrook said.

Afterward, Joel Embiid was asked the same question about the last play. The Sixers' superstar, however, said he didn't foul Russ.

“I don’t think I fouled him. Physical play on both sides, you could’ve called a foul on the other end, too, a bump. It goes both ways. I thought it was great defense, and we got the win,” Embiid said. “He was actually unlucky because he lost the ball, and then from there, he kinda had nothing else going. Yeah, I would say that he was unlucky.” 

The Lakers have a problem in clutch moments

Westbrook’s unsuccessful play to close Sunday’s game against the Sixers is just one of the many that the Lakers have had all season. They’ve managed to tread water despite their overall health issues but somehow have lost multiple games in heartbreaking fashion this season.

In Monday’s game against the Sixers, it’s fair to question why Ham didn’t opt for a timeout, especially when Westbrook lost his handle? Or why was the ball in Westbrook’s hands in the first place when LeBron James, who was a team-high +19 and had 35 points, ten assists, and eight rebounds, was on the court as well? 

This was an unfortunate breakdown for the Lakers, and while Westbrook may have a point that the play could’ve been a foul, at the end of the day, it’s going to count as a loss — and one that’s going to hurt the now-19-24 Lakers team moving forward. 

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