With Joel Embiid’s status uncertain, Sixers happy to secure sweep and rest

NEW YORK — In some ways, Saturday afternoon was already seen for the Sixers.

With Joel Embiid out with a sprained right knee, no one knew who would start Game 4 at center against the Nets.

That apparently included Paul Reed… the starter.

“Right before the game,” Reed said when he learned he would be starting an NBA playoff game for the first time. “Sometimes it’s (up) in the air. One of the coaches came up to me and said, ‘You know you’re starting today, don’t you?’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah, for real?’ »

Reed hit a career-high 32 minutes. He also grabbed a career-best 15 rebounds and had a fantastic second half all-around as the Sixers completed a first-round sweep of the Nets. Counting the regular season, the Sixers improved to 12-5 this season without Embiid.

That’s fine and better than the Sixers’ two second-round losses to Miami in the playoffs when Embiid was sidelined with a fractured orbital and concussion and DeAndre Jordan started.

However, Embiid being absent is undoubtedly a negative for the Sixers. It’s unclear when he might be back.

“I just don’t know,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said when asked about his level of confidence that Embiid will be available for the start of the second round. “I would say right now it’s…probably 50%, at best.”

Rivers said before the game that Embiid had pain behind his knee and swelling after the Sixers’ testy and peculiar Game 3 win. This led to the MVP favorite having an MRI, which showed the sprain.

“I spoke to him last night. … That’s another hurdle in the story that we’re going to write this year, and we’ll be fine,” Rivers said. “It might take a minute, but that’s just part of it. I’m sure he’s human and, ‘God, that (happened) again.’ So let’s win, put it back on the floor and continue our own journey. That’s basically what we talked about last night.

The Sixers will face the winner of the first-round game between the Celtics and the Hawks, and they wouldn’t mind if those teams played a long series. Atlanta won Game 3 Friday night at home and will try to tie the series at two games apiece on Sunday.

Either way, the Sixers will have a meaningful break before the start of the second round. It’s also very good for the players who eliminated Brooklyn on Saturday.

“Yeah, that’s helpful for us too,” Tobias Harris said with a laugh after his 25-point, 12-rebound day. “We also need rest. But now it’s all about recharging. The playoffs are all about recovery – recovering mentally and physically. It’s a game. You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low on it. It’s a great job on our part as a team finishing the series.

“But our next opponent is right around the corner, and we’ll be ready for whoever it is. But we have to recover physically and mentally and understand that we still have a lot of work to do.

Harris’ offense was vital in Game 4 with the Sixers starting backcourt of Tyrese Maxey and James Harden going 10-for-38 (26.3%) from the floor. For the series, Harris averaged 20.3 points. He scored 56.7% of his field goals and 57.1% of his three-pointers.

The Sixers have long been grateful for his stability when the numbers haven’t looked so good too.

“He played his cue,” Maxey said. “His communication there… I say it every time: he’s a pro of the pros, and he’s always there when we need him. And tonight, we needed him. The guys couldn’t get it to work. I was missing layups, James was missing layups – easy shots. (De’Anthony Melton) was joking that he couldn’t shoot in the first half. But Tobias kept us afloat and he closed the game for us.

Maxey was also happy to point out PJ Tucker’s impact outside of the stats.

“We know the playoffs are PJ Tucker’s time, but that’s on top of what he does on the court, man,” Maxey said. “What he does in the huddles and what he does behind the scenes that nobody sees… you always see his offensive rebounds, you see his corner threes, you see his tenacity on the field.

“But off the field you don’t see him pulling guys to the side like me or P-Reed – or even James or the big guy. You don’t see him pulling guys to the side and coaching them and leading them. We need it and we thank it. He’s done it all year, but he really stepped it up come playoff time. Like he said, the playoffs start now. I guess they haven’t started this series, but he says they are starting now.

A little rest before things Really It also looks like it shouldn’t hurt Harden, who missed four straight games in late March with left Achilles tendon pain.

Harden said before Game 1 against Brooklyn that he felt “great” and “extremely prepared”. Still, he had another poor outing around the rim in Game 4, missing a lot of the lay-ups and short floaters he’s used to converting. He expressed no concern over these finishing issues after the game.

Amid the uncertainty over Embiid’s status, Harden seemed confident about this Sixers team heading into the second inning.

“I think we know who we are,” he said. “We know what we are trying to achieve on both sides of the ball. I think for us it’s just about going out there and doing it, and being the best versions of ourselves that we can be.

“Whoever wins, whether it’s Boston or Atlanta, we’ll be ready. Every game, we’re going to give ourselves a chance, and that’s all we can do in the playoffs.

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