Sixers focused more on themselves than Round 2 opponent

Sixers focused more on themselves than Round 2 opponent

CAMDEN, N.J. — Tuesday’s series-clinching victory was a monumental achievement for the Sixers. And while the team briefly savored Brett Brown’s first playoff series win as a head coach in memorable fashion, it was back at practice Thursday afternoon, with its focus shifted to Round 2.

“It was fun,” Joel Embiid said of the celebration with Brown. “I was happy for him because obviously after what he’s been through, two years ago he had a team that only won 10 games and this year he’s at, what, 56? I was really happy for him, and that was the first playoff series that he won, so it was something we felt like we needed to celebrate. But we’re on to the next one.”

That next opponent will be either the Celtics or the Bucks. Boston leads the series, 3-2, and can advance with a win in Game 6 Thursday night at 8 p.m. If the Celtics win, the Sixers will play Game 1 of the second round in Boston on Saturday night.

“Because we don’t know who you’re going to play, you don’t have that luxury of time,” Brown said. “No matter who you play, you better get back in transition defense and you better rebound. But it’s easier for sure when you can zoom in and say, ‘OK, you got Giannis, or you got Marcus Smart.’”

Though they don’t have the advantage of knowing their opponent, the Sixers do have a few extra days to recover from what was an extremely physical series against the Heat. They also have a chance to hone their own sets and to sharpen their execution. Ersan Ilyasova mentioned that, among other things, the Sixers worked on creating space for Embiid post-ups.

“At the end of the day, whoever comes out, I think it’s up to us,” Ilyasova said. “Recently, the way we’ve played, we have to focus on ourselves and if we do the right things, it’s going to be in our favor.”

Boston or Milwaukee is just not the primary concern at the moment. Sure, the Sixers will tune into Game 6 with interest. Embiid said he’ll be watching at home as usual with Markelle Fultz and Justin Anderson. But the intense, team-specific preparation won’t start in earnest until that series concludes.

“We just prepare for both teams,” Embiid said. “We’re going to be ready for whoever. We played them in the regular season, so we have a lot of scouting reports, so I’m sure the coaches will do their job to get us ready.”

The Sixers went 1-3 against the Celtics in the regular season, while they had a 2-2 record against the Bucks. However, Kyrie Irving, who is out for the playoffs with a left patella injury, played in three of those matchups with Boston. And the Sixers crushed the Bucks in the regular-season finale, 130-95. Regardless of who they play, the Sixers will be favored. If they play close to the level they’re capable of, they should advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Playing in his first postseason, Embiid gave the mature answer of a seasoned veteran when asked if he’d prefer to face Milwaukee or Boston.

“It’s the playoffs. I don’t think it matters,” Embiid. “As long as you play your game and stick to your concepts, you’re going to be fine.”

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons (lower back tightness) is probable for Bucks game

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons (lower back tightness) is probable for Bucks game

CAMDEN, N.J. — After missing his first game since November on Thursday night with lower back tightness, Ben Simmons is probable for the Sixers’ matchup Saturday against the NBA-best Bucks.

Simmons went through an individualized workout Thursday, according to a team spokesperson.

Raul Neto started in Simmons’ place for the team’s 112-104 overtime win over the Nets and had six points and four assists in 28 minutes.

Simmons’ absence had a substantial impact on the Sixers’ rotation, with head coach Brett Brown looking to find effective ball handlers. He ended up closing the game with Shake Milton, Josh Richardson and Alec Burks as his guards. Burks scored 19 of the team’s 34 bench points and impressed Brown.

“It wasn’t an easy game to sub,” Brown said Thursday night. “You ended up going to multiple point guards. Ben’s out, so you try J-Rich. At the start, J struggled a little bit. Raul obviously started, but J-Rich was the backup. Then we came in with Shake. We’re searching a little bit at that position. And Ben’s absence put us in that environment. I think in general, the flow of the game was a little bit erratic at the start, and Alec certainly came in and did what we scouted him to do.”

Since missing the 2016-17 season because of a foot injury, Simmons has played in 213 of a possible 220 regular-season games and all 22 of the Sixers' playoff games. 

He first reported discomfort in his lower back at practice Wednesday and still experienced some discomfort Thursday morning, a team source told NBC Sports Philadelphia. 

Simmons played 29 minutes in Sunday’s All-Star Game, recording 17 points, six rebounds and five assists in Team LeBron’s win over Team Giannis. The 23-year-old leads the NBA in steals and played at a very high level leading into the All-Star break, averaging 20.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists in his last 18 games.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

By the numbers: Sixers' wild overtime win over Nets

By the numbers: Sixers' wild overtime win over Nets

The 76ers’ 112-104 overtime win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night kept the team’s momentum rolling as they aim to move up in the Eastern Conference playoff race. 

A look into the numbers tells a deeper story: Yet another singular performance from All-Star Joel Embiid, a hard-earned win despite napping for nearly one-third of the game, and a dominant defensive display in the extra period. 

JoJo does it again

Embiid carried the mail throughout the win, finishing with 39 points and 16 rebounds. It was his fourth career game reaching those numbers in a game. 

According to basketball-reference.com, only Wilt Chamberlain (35) and Charles Barkley (6) have reached those numbers more times in their Sixers careers. 

He earned nearly half of his points from the free throw line, making 18-of-19 in the game. Elias Sports Bureau found six games in which a starting center made at least 18 free throws, and missed one or fewer. Embiid’s name appears twice on that list. He made 20-of-21 FT in a 118-115 win over the Celtics last March 20.

Sixers put down the controller

After taking a 22-6 lead on a Tobias Harris layup with 5:45 left in the first quarter, the Sixers apparently thought the game was over. Over the next 14:36 of game time, they were outscored by the Nets 44-8! That made a 16-point lead into a 20-point deficit. Elias Sports Bureau says that dating back to the start of the 1997-98 season, no team has won a game in which it allowed a 44-8 run.

Slamming it shut in OT

The Sixers stopped messing around with enough time to make up the deficit and force overtime. The Nets managed just a single point in the extra five minutes. This was the third time in Sixers team history that they allowed one point or fewer in an overtime period.

They will look to add more nuggets to the record book Saturday night in Milwaukee when they take on the 47-8 Bucks.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers