76ers

Joel Embiid wants to play every game the rest of the way

Joel Embiid wants to play every game the rest of the way

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The Sixers have been looking for ways to get Joel Embiid rest before the postseason. The most obvious solution would be sitting him for an entire game.

Except Embiid has no interest in doing that.

“I’m playing in every game,” Embiid said following his 59th appearance of the season. 

The Sixers have 12 games remaining prior to the playoffs. Six are in variations of home-away back-to-backs, starting with Thursday’s matchup in Orlando in which Embiid is expected to play. 

His minutes have jumped this season to 31 per game, a serious leap for the player who had been under tight restrictions. The Sixers, who are now currently the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference (see standings), need a healthy Embiid to succeed in the postseason. They are eyeing time off for him and other high-minutes players. 

“I think that there will be a game that we do do that,” Brett Brown said. “He’s just so ridiculously competitive and he so much wants to please the fans of Philadelphia. He so much wants to please the fans of Philadelphia. I think that for us to say he’s going to play every one of the remaining games after tonight, 12 of them, is not going to happen. But I bet it comes with a fight.”

Brown is right. Embiid has been making his case to remain in the lineup. 

“We didn’t come this far to rest me,” Embiid said following the Sixers’ 119-105 win over the Grizzlies on Wednesday (see observations). “I mean, I was always complaining about playing every game and playing back-to-backs. I’m sure the fans were, too. 

“Now that we’re here, I can understand maybe the last game before we get ready for the playoffs, but other than that, I want to play every game because that’s my first time I get the chance to do that.”

The reasons to rest are pretty clear. The grind of the season can take its toll, especially on a player who never has come close to playing this amount of basketball. Embiid, though, thrives on consistency and repetition. He’s averaging 25.0 points and 14.0 rebounds in five games on no days’ rest. 

“You stay in shape,” Embiid said. “I’m the type of guy that when I miss a day or two and I don’t really do anything, I get out of shape really quick. Just being consistent about playing and not missing two or three days. I know my body … I want to keep going. Honestly, I’ve been feeling really good. I haven’t been tired, so I’ve just got to keep it going.”

Brown sees that perspective, having coached players over his career who have had the same mentality.

“Too much time off wasn’t desirable," Brown said. "It sounds attractive but the maniacal ones especially, you feel like you’re just not as well prepared, I think to strike that balance of the rest versus rhythm is always a challenge. I don’t think it’s a generic formula.”

Another solution: Building — and maintaining — big enough leads to rest in the fourth. The Sixers led the Grizzlies by 30 after three quarters, which allowed all the starters to sit the entire final quarter. Embiid played only 19 minutes and 33 seconds. 

Joel Embiid ready for home playoff debut, says Sixers' 'time is now'

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Joel Embiid ready for home playoff debut, says Sixers' 'time is now'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid received a text message from across the NBA following the Sixers’ 27-point win over the Heat in Game 1. 

It was from Draymond Green, sending his championship-winning insight. 

“Draymond texted me after the first game when we blew Miami out,” Embiid recalled Monday. “He basically told me that it’s not going to be the same in Game 2. They came back and they won that game.” 

Green was right. Each contest has been a match of adjustments, including Embiid’s return from a 10-game layoff. Wearing a required mask with goggles, Embiid played in the Sixers’ Game 3 and Game 4 victories. 

Now he’s poised to make his postseason home debut Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center, where he’s been eager to compete in a playoff game his entire career. 

“The atmosphere was amazing, it was insane,” Embiid said of the home crowd in Games 1 and 2. “After going to Miami, I felt like nothing compared to it. … We’ve been almost perfect [at home] since the beginning of the year. It just shows you how much we need them. Especially myself, I play better in that type of environment. I need the fans to get into it and push me. That makes me elevate my game.” 

Embiid’s offensive game has been impacted since coming back from a concussion and left orbital fracture suffered on March 28. He scored 23 points (5 for 11 FG) with seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three turnovers in Game 3. The following game, he posted 14 points (2 for 11 FG, 0 for 4 from three), 12 rebounds, five blocks and eight turnovers. Embiid is shooting 31.8 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from the line in the series. 

“The main thing, especially when it (the offense) doesn’t go my way, is just be a beast defensively,” he said. 

Embiid cannot play without the protective mask, though, which he has described as “annoying” and “weird.” Markelle Fultz and Amir Johnson tried on the goggles after practice Monday to get a glimpse into his line of vision. 

“They kind of saw my pain when I have to wear them,” Embiid said. “But that can’t be an excuse. I have to get used to it.” 

Embiid’s mindset going into Game 5 is to close out the Heat series and get some extra time before the second round (see story). The Celtics and Bucks series is tied 2-2. He sees the first round as just the starting point for the Sixers’ postseason. 

“A lot of people say that we have a bright future, but I think our time is now,” Embiid said. “We have a pretty good chance. We have a special team, a lot of great guys. I don’t think we need anybody else. We’ve just got to work with what we have, and we have a special team. I feel like we have a pretty good chance to go far. 

"So it’s just about us taking care of the little things, like not turning the ball over, just playing together, like we've been doing, sharing the ball, not be selfish, and everything is going to take care of itself." 

Embiid will take the court for his first postseason game in Philadelphia when the Sixers tip off against the Heat at 8 p.m. Tuesday on NBCSP.

"The playoffs, that’s kind of like you play in front of the whole world," Embiid said. "I feel like I thrive in that type of situation because I feel like I was made for this." 

Sixers know what must be done to knock out Heat

Sixers know what must be done to knock out Heat

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers have pushed the Heat to the brink of elimination and now they are hunkering down for yet another battle in this hard-fought first-round matchup. 

The Sixers do not anticipate closing out the series Tuesday night at home to be any easier than the first four grind-it-out games. 

“You don’t have to be a wise man to know what is about to happen, what style of play they’re going to try to play,” Brett Brown said before practice Monday. “Especially when they’re going to go home if they’re not able to find a win. We understand that.”

The Sixers are returning to the Wells Fargo Center up 3-1 after completing the challenging task of taking two straight games on the road. As they prepare for what could be a deciding game, they are focused on fixing their mistakes from the previous ones. The Sixers overcame giving up 30 points on 27 turnovers, shooting 7 for 31 from three, and trailing by 12 in Game 4. 

“I said it after the game and I’ll say it again now: we were very fortunate to win that game,” Brown said. “The discipline that we did not show offensively and defensively in the first three periods, especially as I go back and watch it, can’t happen.” 

Regardless of the final score, the Heat have proven to be a feisty squad each night. The tussle between Robert Covington, James Johnson and Ben Simmons exemplified the spirit of the series. The teams were whistled for a combined 10 technical fouls in Games 3 and 4. 

Goran Dragic said the Heat are not going to show up at the Wells Fargo Center to surrender. The Sixers don’t anticipate them to, either. 

“A team like Miami, their culture, their organization, their group of guys, they have fighters, they have warriors on their team,” JJ Redick said. “Every game in this series has been tough. There’s no expectations that Game 5 will be any different.”

The Sixers have not advanced out of the first round since 2012, the last time they were in the playoffs. With a 3-1 lead, their objective Tuesday is clear. 

“Our mindset is to close it out,” Joel Embiid said.