Sixers' Joel Embiid doubtful for Game 1 vs. Celtics; James Harden has aggressive mindset

Embiid doubtful for Game 1 but 'improving daily'; Harden has aggressive mindset originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

As head coach Doc Rivers had forecast, the Sixers listed Joel Embiid as doubtful Sunday ahead of their second-round playoff series opener Monday night against the Celtics.

Boston’s Danilo Gallinari (left knee ACL repair) was the only other player on the injury report ahead of Sixers-Celtics Game 1 at TD Garden.

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On a positive note for the Sixers, Embiid took jumpers Sunday during the post-practice window open to reporters for the first time this week. James Harden fed passes to the Sixers’ six-time All-Star big man, who suffered a right knee sprain during the team’s Game 3 win over the Nets last Thursday.

“He did a little bit more,” Rivers said. “Not much. He didn’t do any running or anything like that — just did some shooting and stuff. So he’s better, yeah. He’s progressing.”

Asked about the Sixers’ level of optimism with Embiid, Rivers gave a philosophical response.


“There’s been optimism all along, but there’s also realism,” he said with a laugh. “You’ve got to be realistic. And I just don’t know. Still doubtful, but he’s improving daily. That’s good for us.”

Harden caught a quarterback-style, long-distance pass from Embiid before sitting down to talk with reporters.

He didn’t dwell on the subject of his own health.


“I’m good,” Harden said of the left Achilles soreness that caused him to miss four games at the end of March. “That’s not even a problem.”

The NBA’s assists title winner this season spoke like he expected to be without Embiid in Game 1.

“ … For me, this whole year has been the playmaker role of James Harden — the sacrifice of not really scoring and all that good stuff,” Harden said. “And now it’s like, ‘All right, I’ve got to turn the switch on and be a little more aggressive’ — not only with scoring the basketball, but getting in the paint and generating really good shots for our team. That’s what’s going to help us.

“All of that said, it’s just going out there, reading the game of basketball, and playing off my basketball instincts. Just going out there and hooping.”


Although the Sixers went 0-2 in Boston during the regular season, Harden produced well, totaling 61 points on 17-for-28 shooting, 18 assists and four turnovers.

As for Tyrese Maxey’s issues against the Celtics, which included a 3-for-14 outing on Feb. 8, Harden didn’t sound concerned.

“Just have that confidence,” he said. “I think all of us have to go in there with an unbelievable amount of confidence to go out there and want to take Game 1. Not only Tyrese, I think our entire team has to have that swagger to go in there and have that confidence that we’re winning Game 1.

“I’m confident that Tyrese has been putting the work in. He works extremely hard, so whether it’s his shot or whether it’s getting to the rim, I’m confident that they’ll go in.”


After Embiid was done putting up his jumpers, he dished to Harden for catch-and-shoot three-pointers.

It remains uncertain when that will next happen in a game.

“We communicate often, especially these last few days as far as how he feels and things like that,” Harden said. “I think today was his first time shooting. I mean, it’s up to Joel. It’s up to him when his body feels like he’s ready to come back — or, if his body isn’t feeling all the way at 100 percent, he (could) still be like, ‘I’m still going to go out there and hoop and try to figure it out.’ That’s all on him. I don’t think anybody in the world can have that mindset other than Joel Embiid.

“Obviously, we know the value that he brings to our team and what he’s been doing all year long. So when he’s ready to come back and hoop — when he feels like he’s ready — obviously we’re waiting for him. But until then, we’ve got to go out there and try to win a basketball game — one game at a time. That’s our mindset as a team.”