Sixers head coach Doc Rivers wasn’t sure whether his side would have star big man Joel Embiid back in the mix as the Philadelphia 76ers prepared for Game 3 of their second-round series against the Miami Heat.
Rivers: “We don’t know yet,” Rivers said a little under two hours before tip-off when asked about Embiid’s condition. “He’s still unsure. He’ll warm up first and then proceed.”
The Sixers had no option but to declare Embiid out on Thursday night since the NBA’s concussion protocol had not yet cleared him.
But on Friday morning, the big man overcame that stumbling block and joined his teammates for a shootaround.
“To be honest, we didn’t do enough.” “When asked about Embiid’s appearance on Friday morning, Rivers responded. “We watched a movie and went over everything. I know he’s been able to run and do other things in the previous several days. He hasn’t been able to do anything.”- Rivers
Despite being off the court for over a week, Embiid didn’t waste any time after being cleared. The Sixers’ big man was on a mission to get his team back on the court after falling by two games. Embiid informed the 76ers he was ready to play after going through pregame warmups.
Embiid’s presence throughout the game felt. Embiid’s presence alone lifted the 76ers, even if he didn’t have a hallmark 30-point effort on the offensive end. And, in Doc Rivers’ opinion, the big man’s contribution to his team’s win against Miami on Friday night was on the defensive end.
“A lot [changed],” said Rivers after Game 3. “I mean, just his presence, to start the game. His energy, his rebounding.
Rivers’ ability at the basket. I’ve said it all year. You could see his timing was off a little bit. But his presence defensively, I don’t – I don’t think he gets enough credit for how good of a defensive player he is and how much he helps us. And I thought tonight it was a lot of that.” -Rivers
Embiid returned for 36 minutes on Friday after missing the previous two games. He has assembled five of his 12 field-goal tries and eight of his ten free throw attempts for 18 points. Embiid grabbed 10 of his 11 total rebounds, a steal, and a blocked shot on defense.
Everyone who played had a significant influence on the game, so Embiid’s supporting cast deserves credit for the victory. The 76ers, rivers on the other hand, are clearly in a different league when the MVP finalist is on the court. After winning Game 3 with a 99-79, they’ll aim to tie the series on Sunday.