76ers

NBA Playoff Notes: No timetable for Jazz center Rudy Gobert (knee) to return

NBA Playoff Notes: No timetable for Jazz center Rudy Gobert (knee) to return

LOS ANGELES -- Utah center Rudy Gobert has been diagnosed with a left knee hyperextension and bone contusion after his collision 17 seconds into the Jazz's playoff opener against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The team says he will continue to be re-evaluated. No timetable for his return was given.

Gobert was taken from Staples Center on Saturday night for an MRI, which revealed no ligament damage. Initial X-rays also were negative.

He knocked knees with Luc Mbah a Moute on the first possession of the game, which the Jazz won 97-95.

Game 2 is Tuesday at Staples Center.

Isaiah Thomas inteds to play Game 1 vs. Bulls, a day after his sister was killed
BOSTON -- Celtics coach Brad Stevens said it is point guard Isaiah Thomas' "intention to play" Sunday night in Game 1 of Boston's first-round playoff matchup with the Chicago Bulls, a day after his sister was killed in a car accident.

Stevens said Thomas went through the pregame shootaround, but added he has been emotional and it's up to him to decide whether he ultimately plays. Thomas received word that younger sister Chyna Thomas died early Saturday in a one-car interstate accident in their home state of Washington. She was 22.

The Celtics' All-Star guard was informed of her death following the team's practice Saturday afternoon.

Condolences have poured in from around the league, from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and various players and friends. Thomas, in his sixth season, grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and starred at the University of Washington.

"He's struggling," Stevens said. "Obviously, it's tragic circumstances that he and his family are going through right now. Our thoughts, first and foremost are with them...We've talked a little bit last night and then again today (that) as he goes through it and if he feels like he needs to not (play) -- then whatever he wants."

In the locker room prior to the game, emotions among Thomas' teammates were raw.

Center Al Horford, who touted the opportunity to play alongside Thomas as one of the main reasons he decided to sign with Boston as a free agent this past summer, said everyone is just trying to give him space right now. He expected Sunday's game to be an emotional experience for his teammate.

"It has to be," Horford said. "Isaiah is a very strong man and none of us have any idea what he's going through or feeling. The fact that he's even here is just a lot of credit to him. It's a difficult time, but we're here for him and we're going to go out and compete and play hard."

Forward Tyler Zeller said they just want to try to make his basketball world as easy as possible right now.

"He's the reason we are where we are," Zeller said. "He's had an unbelievable season and he's our No. 1...We're gonna go out and help him out in any way."

The Bulls were among the first NBA teams to release a statement of condolence for Thomas on Saturday. Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said he expected what is usually a high-energy Boston arena to be filled with even more emotion Sunday.

"It's a horrible tragedy," Hoiberg said. "He just seems like such a good kid, and obviously he's one of the great competitors we have in our league. ... It's just awful what happened."

Joel Embiid has trouble with mask, not Heat in Sixers' Game 3 win

Joel Embiid has trouble with mask, not Heat in Sixers' Game 3 win

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — "We're not here to make friends. We're here to win the series." 

With those two sentences, Joel Embiid made it known what he is all about in the playoffs.

The big man fought to return from an orbital fracture to help the Sixers win, and that’s exactly what he did in his first game since March 28. Embiid led the team with 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal over 30 minutes in his NBA postseason debut … while wearing a mask with goggles (see story)

“I was excited,” Embiid said following the Sixers’ 128-108 victory Thursday in Game 3 (see observations). “Worked really hard for it. Promised the city that and made it happen. I was kind of sad that I couldn’t play in that first at home because we have a special connection. But I’m glad, came back today and we got a win.” 

Embiid sent a message — he is back, and not backing down. Sitting at the podium with a calm confidence, he talked about everything from his desire to return to in-game chippiness to defending his teammates. 

“I hate sitting out,” Embiid said. “I felt like it was time to come back, especially after watching how physical the game was, Game 2. I love this moment, I love being physical, I love attacking, I love contact.” 

Returning meant wearing a protective mask on his face. Though irksome in some ways, Embiid noted his game is too strong to be held back. 

“It was difficult,” Embiid said of the mask. “But to me it wasn’t really about getting used to it because at the end of the day, no matter how much it bothers me, I’ve still got to be a basketball player. If the shots aren’t falling and it gets foggy or I can’t see, there’s a lot of different stuff I can do, especially defensively because I feel like I’m the best defensive player in the league.”

There was plenty of contact in Game 3, and his mask wasn’t safe from it either. At one point, Embiid’s goggles landed on the court. Justise Winslow stepped on them, downplaying it after the game. 

“He kept throwing it on the ground, so I don’t know if he didn’t like it or what,” Winslow said. “But I was talking to JoJo, we were smack talking, trash talking, going back and forth. No love lost.”

Embiid didn’t quite see the situation as “throwing it on the ground.” He added an extra punch to the end of his recount. 

“Justise stepped on it and tried to break it with his hands,” Embiid said. “But little do they know is that I have about 50 of them. So it’s going to take much more than that to get me out of the series. 

“I’m going to be a nightmare for them, too.” 

When the game was in hand, Embiid was eager to see the Sixers finish with as large a margin of victory as possible. He thought back to Game 2 when Goran Dragic scored a layup with 1.2 seconds to play, and how Jordan Clarkson had thrown a ball at Dario Saric for scoring similarly during the regular season in Cleveland. So on Thursday, Embiid wanted them to run up the scoreboard. 

“I wish I was there in that Game 2 because I was kind of pissed about it,” Embiid said. “It’s basketball. It’s always good to blow a team out. I think we were up 18 or 20. If you could get that lead up to 22, I think it’s good. I love blowing teams out. I like the fact that we did that.” 

There's less than 48 hours until the Heat will look to bounce back in Game 4 and even up the series. Embiid knows the Sixers are in for a battle. 

And he likes that. 

“Game 4, they’re going to try to do what they did at Game 2, come out and be really, really extra aggressive and try to punch us in the mouth,” Embiid said. “We’ve got to be ready for that and I’ll for sure be ready.” 

Joel Embiid's return sparks Sixers' physical Game 3 win in Miami

Joel Embiid's return sparks Sixers' physical Game 3 win in Miami

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Joel Embiid is 1-0 in the playoffs.

The Sixers beat the Heat, 128-108, Thursday with their mask-wearing center back in the starting lineup to take a 2-1 lead on the series. 

• Embiid made his long-awaited return, playing in his postseason debut and first game since March 28. Donning a face mask with goggles (see story), Embiid rejoined the starting lineup. He had 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes. 

He looked eager as well as affected at times by the long layoff from the left orbital fracture and concussion. He was aggressive at getting to the line (and drawing fouls on Hassan Whiteside), but shot 10 for 15 once there. Embiid knocked down threes (3 of 4), at the same time committing a 24-second violation trying to back down to the basket. Considering how long it’s been since he played, Embiid’s conditioning looked better than expected. 

• This game was not decided until the final quarter. The Sixers led, 96-94, after three. Brett Brown started Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Ersan Ilyasova and Embiid to open the fourth. That group outscored the Heat 9-1 to push the lead to 10 and change the tone of the remainder of the game. 

• First it was Kelly Olynyk. Then it was Dwyane Wade. In Game 3, Justise Winslow was the offensive spark plug off the Miami bench. Winslow scored 19 points in the first half, seven more than the Heat’s next leading scorer. He also was an agitator throughout the game, continuing to try to get under the Sixers’ skin as he had done in the previous games. Check out what happened with the goggles from Embiid’s mask.

• Justin Anderson looked like he had been waiting for this defensive assignment all season. Brown tasked him with defending Wade in the first half, and that matchup turned chippy. Anderson and Wade both were called for physical taunting technical fouls after Anderson pushed off on Wade and Wade grabbed his arm and flung him around. Anderson had played less than two minutes in the series prior to Game 3. 

• The game was physical with whistles and double techs throughout the night. Just how physical was it?

• Late in the third quarter, the Sixers rolled out the lineup of T.J. McConnell, Marco Belinelli, Anderson, Ilyasova and Embiid. None of these players are hesitant to mix things up. At one point a play culminated with Embiid and Anderson jumping up to block an Olynyk shot with the Heat forward landing on the ground. 

• Brown had planned to play Markelle Fultz more than the five minutes he clocked in Game 2. That didn’t happen. Fultz was on the court for 4:21 in the first half without a shot attempt (one rebound, one assist, two fouls). McConnell got the backup point guard minutes in the second half. 

• Game 4 will be played at 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon on NBCSP in Miami.