No Jo tomorrow.
The Phantom of the Process, also know as Joel Embiid, was officially ruled out on Sunday afternoon. He recently cleared the NBA’s concussion protocol but will have to wait a little while longer to make his playoff debut.
Head coach Brett Brown spoke about his 7’2″ center, explaining that the flow of the series doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the timeline for return.
“It’s still about what’s best for Joel’s health,” Brown said. “To have him come back and save the day because we lost game one, that was not going to happen. The fact that we won game one also doesn’t influence it. It’s all the same thing; it’s what is best for Joel’s health. It’s been determined that he should not play game two.”
After the way the Sixers played last night, they certainly don’t need Embiid, at least not right now. Philly ran Miami and Hassan Whiteside off the court in the second half with a small ball lineup featuring Ersan Ilyasova and Dario Saric in the front court, along with Robert Covington, who played a bit of power forward at times.
In terms of how Embiid’s return would change the Sixers’ style of play, JJ Redick didn’t seem to be too concerned with any theoretical disruption of what the team has been doing over the course of nine straight wins without the all-star.
“We’ll still play fast,” Redick explained. “We’ll play a little bit slower, a few more set plays to get him the ball in the post, but I don’t think the philosophy changes all that much. Probably when we’re at our best is when we’re balancing sort of making sure he has touches in the post with that sort of flow action that we played with the last couple weeks.”
Markelle Fultz echoed those sentiments.
“I just think we’d have a post presence that we could go to at any time, go get a bucket there,” Fultz said. “He also can space the floor just as well as anybody on our team and shoot the three ball. So I just think it’s going to make it more dynamic. I think guys are going to be open from his screens. He can get a lot of guys open. So it’s definitely gonna help out a lot.”
It was a tempered mood at the training complex. Brown and his players spoke around 12:30, then did a 30 minute film session before hitting the court. They aren’t getting ahead of themselves.
“We protected our home court,” Redick said. “Doc Rivers used to always say something along the lines of, ‘a playoff series doesn’t really begin until someone gets a road win.’ All we’ve done is protect home court for one game.”
No longer overthinking
Dario Saric went for 20 points on 8-15 shooting in the game one win, a strong follow-up performance to his 24 point, 10-19 effort in the regular season finale.
He didn’t have the bandage on his previously infected right elbow, nor did he wear the sleeve that he originally used when he returned to the lineup against Cleveland back on April 6th.
I asked him if he felt any discomfort with his shooting motion and whether or the not the sleeve and bandage had affected his mechanics.
“Yea, it was like, you know, an infection and didn’t (heal) as quickly as everybody expected,” Saric said. “For everybody it’s different. And of course it was bothering me a little bit. I didn’t have full extension in my arm and my elbow. But sometimes I just tried to forget about it, to just take the ball and shoot the ball and I think because of that I played my last two games pretty good. Previously, I think I was ‘so-so’ because I was thinking so much about the elbow, about all of those things.”
Beyond Saric and Ilyasova’s ability to space the floor and shoot effectively in a smaller lineup, there really wasn’t much of a defensive or rebounding drop off when they played together last night. Saric grabbed 6 rebounds and Ilyasova 14, and the Sixers out-rebounded Miami 50 to 42 overall and 17 to 10 on the offensive glass.
“Ersan, there’s not many players that can offensive rebound at his rate and also shoot threes as well as he does,” Redick said, when asked about the contribution of the Sixers’ late season additions.
It’s true. A quick search on Basketball Reference shows that only Karl-Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic are shooting better than 36% from three while also grabbing 1.8 or more offensive rebounds per game. Ilyasova and Saric are hitting both of those marks.
Dario has been making plays like this all season long:
And Ilyasova had a pair of putbacks for buckets to go along with three three pointers last night:
When you’ve got guys who can do that while also shooting better than 36% from three, you’re in good shape.
That’s all I’ve got for today. Enjoy your cold and windy and miserable Sunday afternoon.