Sixers want a much stronger response to Celtics' pressure for Game 3

For Game 3, Sixers want a much stronger response to Celtics' pressure originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Sixers want a forceful response Friday night to the Celtics’ shove back in Game 2.

After falling to Boston by 34 points in Joel Embiid’s return to action, the Sixers will host Game 3 and expect to be better across the board.

Specifically, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers emphasized how his team replies to the Celtics’ pressure and physicality.

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“I thought their ball pressure took us out of everything,” Rivers said Thursday following a Sixers film session. “It wouldn’t have mattered if Joel was there or not. We would’ve had a tough offensive night, with the way we allowed them to play inside of us. They twisted us all around, they rolled us off of spots, we couldn’t get organized because of their pressure. So we’ll be better.”

Though Embiid’s five first-half blocks helped to keep the game tight, Rivers was displeased overall with the Sixers’ defense.

“I just thought, when you watched the game, they did everything that they wanted to do offensively,” he said. “We didn’t supply a lot of pressure at all; we weren’t into the ball. They moved the ball. I said, ‘Guys it looked like (on) a couple of possessions, they were in shootaround.’ And they were just playing with nobody in front of them, no resistance. So we’ll do that better.

“But then they didn’t allow us to do that. So if you’re going to have one team in your air space, not allowing you to move, deflecting and grabbing and holding, and then you on the other end allow them to move, it’s going to be a mismatch. And that’s what it was last night."


The Sixers were inferior in the hustle department, too.

“Fifty-fifty basketballs, it feels like they got every single one,” James Harden said Wednesday night, “which led to shots for them, the majority of them threes.”

Rivers called out the same problem.

“We squandered the loose balls on the floor a lot. There was a possession — I think it was 23-20, end of the (first) quarter — we clearly have the ball. … Somehow they come out with the ball and make a three. ... That happened over and over through the game last night. That’s just getting first to the ball. We’ve got to be better.”

The one large item Rivers felt positively about following Game 2 was Embiid’s health.


According to Rivers, the Sixers’ internal physical tracking data on Embiid was encouraging. Though Embiid was officially listed as questionable with his right knee sprain as of Friday afternoon, it would be quite surprising if he did not play.

“He looked good,” Rivers said. “And his numbers were great. That’s the thing, watching all the numbers we track, his numbers were great last night. We didn’t play well … but just his speed that he reached, his explosions, they were very close to normal. So that was great for us to see.

“And more importantly, great for him to be able to do it and see that he can do it, and then have very little swelling or anything like that. That’s what we needed to find out, in a lot of ways. Obviously, we didn’t win the game, but that’s important for us.”

Before Game 3 tips off, NBA commissioner Adam Silver will present Embiid with the Michael Jordan MVP Trophy.


The last time a Sixer lifted the MVP trophy was nearly 22 years ago. Allen Iverson scored 52 points that night and the Sixers dominated the Raptors in Game 5 of their second-round playoff series.

“Man, especially with Jo’s MVP and coming back for a home game, I think it’ll be jumping, honestly,” De’Anthony Melton said Friday morning. “I think the crowd should be real live. I know how Philly gets, y’all know how Philly gets, so I hope to see a lot of rowdiness out there.”