76ers

NBA Notes: Grieving Isaiah Thomas to play Game 2, then fly to funeral

NBA Notes: Grieving Isaiah Thomas to play Game 2, then fly to funeral

WALTHAM, Massachusetts -- In any sport, the one thing a team can't prepare for is the unknown.

Last week, the Celtics were the toast of the East after outlasting the champion Cleveland Cavaliers for the top seed and home-court advantage. Then, the day before Boston's playoff opener, Isaiah Thomas' sister was killed in a car accident.

It's created a delicate balancing act. This is a team that expected to be riding a big wave of momentum. Instead, Boston lost 106-102 to Chicago in Game 1 and the possibility looms Tuesday of falling into an 0-2 hole (see full story).

Raptors: Lowry looks to recover from slow start
TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry is experiencing playoff deja vu, only with a twist. The All Star point guard for the Toronto Raptors says his latest Game 1 failure doesn't just feel familiar, it's even worse than those that came before.

Lowry scored four points in Saturday's 97-83 loss to Milwaukee, connecting on just two of 11 field goal attempts and finishing 0 for 6 from 3-point range.

His disappointing performance brought back memories of the series-opening struggles Lowry faced last year, including 3 for 13 efforts against both Indiana in the first round and Miami in the second, and a 4 for 14 effort against Cleveland in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals (see full story).

Rockets: Texans' Watt huge fan of guard Beverley
HOUSTON -- When J.J. Watt attended the Houston Rockets' playoff game on Sunday night, he got a front-row view of Patrick Beverley's intensity.

The Houston Texans star defensive end was taken aback when Beverley walked over to his courtside seat during a timeout and simply stood in front of him and stared for several seconds.

"I was like: `Pat, I don't know what you want me to do here, man. I can't really do anything,'" Watt said. "He's just staring me down. And my girlfriend looked at me and she was like: `That was kind of cool and kind of awkward at the same time.' I was like: `Yeah it was.' I didn't know what to do," (see full story).

Sixers bringing 'bunker mentality' into road playoff setting

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Sixers bringing 'bunker mentality' into road playoff setting

You’ve witnessed the Miami scenes. 

The pristine beaches, exciting nightlife, eclectic cuisine. The list goes on.

It all adds up to one of the best destination experiences in the United States.

And the Sixers don’t want anything to do with it.

This is a business trip.

Scratch that. This is battle.

“It just becomes, I think, a little bit more insular, a little bit more of a bunker mentality,” Brett Brown said at Wednesday’s practice. “It’s a little bit more of trying to minimize distractions. You’re not in your own bedroom. You’re not in your own sort of comfort zone, your own routine, rhythm to your day.

“It’s a huge part of young players figuring out life on the road and it certainly gets exacerbated in the playoffs. But I like it. I like the mentality and the spirit of being together. I think we have a very close team and I think it forces you to become even closer when you’re just not at home.”

Games 3 and 4 inside AmericanAirlines Arena will feel like anywhere but home for the Sixers. In the first road playoff game for this young team, the players will have to deal with crowd noise and an extremely physical opponent.

The volume will subside as the Sixers are able to string together baskets, and they know the only way to do that is take the smart approach to the Heat’s increased physicality.

“It doesn’t have to be macho vs. macho,” Brown said. “That’s not how we want to play. We want to have an intellectual response to physicality. It can mean speed, it can mean space, it can mean the technique of just creating a lead and getting open. A simple jab step and putting your arm in somebody’s chest and throwing out a lead hand as an example of stuff you’d learn in eighth grade. But it all equals fundamentals, poise, technique, that stuff to combat physicality.

“It’s not they punch you, you punch them, they punch … it’s not that at all."

“You don’t want to do anything that can put yourself in a predicament, allow someone to get hurt,” Robert Covington said. “Nobody wants to get fined, nobody wants to be on the back end of something like that because it can be retaliation that can come from it. You have to play smart and just have to sit up here and do it different ways. You cannot get caught up in the moment and do something crazy.”

Whatever physical tactics the Heat attempt, the Sixers promise they’ll be ready this time around.

“I’ve got a few hits for people coming their way,” Ben Simmons said.

“I’m ready to play.”

Sixers officially list Joel Embiid as doubtful for Game 3

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Sixers officially list Joel Embiid as doubtful for Game 3

MIAMI — Just over 24 hours before the Sixers face off against the Heat in Game 3, Joel Embiid was listed as doubtful because of a left orbital fracture, or a 75 percent he will not play. That doesn’t mean, though, that status won’t change.

Embiid went through his second straight day of light practice Wednesday shortly after the team arrived in Miami. The Sixers will hold morning shootaround Thursday and could evaluate him again in pregame warmups before he is ruled in or out. 

Embiid was knocking down threes prior to the start of practice. 

Brett Brown said Embiid did a “little bit” of contact work Tuesday and handled it “quite well.” Conditioning is also a big part of his return. Embiid has not played in a game since March 28 when he suffered the fracture and a concussion. 

“It’s going to take time getting hit fitness up,” Brown said. “I think because he is an athlete, whenever the time comes where he does play, I think it’ll move in a more rapid way. I think his body looks great … I feel like it’ll kick in quicker than most.”

Embiid expressed his frustrations of being sidelined with an Instagram post shortly after the Sixers lost Game 2. They had previously won nine straight without him, which helped with his patience. 

“His spirit was very high,” Robert Covington said of his first practice. “Overall, he felt really good and we felt really good to have him out there with us.”

Embiid will have to shake off some rust when he does return. He thrives on consistent action to stay in game shape, and he’s been out for three weeks. If he’s not at 100 percent when he plays, Brown could see him still making an impact. 

“Defensively, he immediately comes in and changes the landscape,” Brown said. “The game is being played so fast right now and he has not been with us for a while, so I think the adjustment offensively might be a little more noticeable than defensively initially. He’s so gifted and he’s intelligent. He really is as smart and as instinctive a player as I’ve coached. He can look at something without doing it and then go do it.”

The Sixers are expecting another physical matchup with the Heat, especially with the next two games being in Miami. Embiid’s tough play would help them in that aspect as they try to take another series lead. The team has an approach, though, even if he cannot battle on the court. 

“It doesn’t have to be macho versus macho,” Brown said. “That’s not how we want to play. We want to have an intellectual response to physicality." 

The Sixers are looking for their first win of the season in Miami.