Sixers' Doc Rivers considers Joel Embiid 'doubtful for at least Game 1' vs. Celtics

Rivers considers Embiid 'doubtful for at least Game 1' of Celtics series originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

CAMDEN, N.J. — Doc Rivers does not submit the injury report.

However, the Sixers’ head coach had an unofficial listing for Joel Embiid ahead of his team's second-round playoff series opener Monday night against the Celtics.

“Obviously, the doctors looked at him (yesterday),” Rivers said Saturday of Embiid, who’s been sidelined by a right knee sprain. “He didn’t do anything today. I’ll say this: If I was a betting man, I would probably say doubtful for at least Game 1, but we’ll see. … He did nothing today. Nothing yet — just wasn’t able to. And obviously, we were hopeful for today.”

After completing a first-round sweep of the Nets last Saturday, the Sixers have practiced Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Embiid participated in none of those sessions.

Meanwhile, the Celtics needed six games to handle the Hawks in Round 1. Rivers has plenty of respect for an opponent that won 57 regular-season games and is aiming for a second consecutive Eastern Conference title.

“They’re a terrific team,” he said. “They’re well-coached. They spread the floor, they attack. They’re deep; they have a lot of weapons. Obviously, (Jayson Tatum) and (Jaylen Brown), but (Al) Horford, (Derrick) White, (Malcolm) Brogdon — you can just keep going down the list. They just have a lot of guys that can play basketball.

“And like I’ve said with other teams, they’ve been to the Finals — they get it. They’ve been through any type of adversity. Nothing’s going to shake them, and we’ve got to be ready for that.”

Last postseason, the Sixers faced similar Embiid injury-related adversity to begin the second round. They fell into a 2-0 series deficit against the Heat with Embiid out because of an orbital fracture and concussion and ultimately lost in six games.

Coming off of a career-high 32 minutes and a stellar second half in the Sixers’ sweep-clinching win against the Nets, backup big man Paul Reed feels he’s grown substantially over the past year.

“I’m in a much better place mentally and physically — more so mentally,” Reed said Saturday. “Just having more reps during the season has helped me tremendously with my chemistry with my teammates and just knowing where they need me on the court, where I’m going to get my points, and where I’m going to help my teammates get their points. And also, when I get offensive rebounds, (throwing) kick-outs.

“I feel like my teammates, they know what to expect out of me now, and I know what I expect out of myself. It’s a lot clearer, and I’m just thankful for this opportunity.”

Rivers said Reed started Game 4 in Brooklyn because "I just thought he earned that." Six-time All-Star Embiid will be Rivers' no-brainer, first-choice starting center every time he's available, but Reed has indeed developed trust this season with his coaches and teammates.

P.J. Tucker, who looks likely to play small-ball center minutes this series, has been one of many Sixers pushing Reed to improve.

He hasn’t been delicate about it.

“You’ve got to know how to talk to everybody, how to communicate small things,” Tucker said. “I curse Paul out; I just curse Paul out because I know he can take it and he’s going to respond. I can’t treat Tyrese (Maxey) like that. It’s more of a conversation and an understanding with Tyrese. So that’s just a part of being a good vet and learning your guys.”

Tucker has seen Reed progress this year at the nuances of sharing the floor with James Harden, who led the Sixers' Embiid-less lineups in Round 1.

“It’s just like a learning curve,” Tucker said. “Paul’s learning how to play with James. And I try to teach him that it’s different for everybody. You’ve got to know going into pick-and-rolls with Tyrese, or going into it with Shake (Milton), or going into it with James, it’s different with all of them. You’ve got to know the reads and how they play — how you’ve got to screen and what they’re going to do, so you know what to do.

“So you can’t be a robot. You’ve got to think the game while the game’s going on. There’s levels, and he’s starting to understand that and get better at it.”