Celtics Preparing For 76ers Without Joel Embiid To Begin Semifinals

'It doesn't change out mindset'


Apr 30, 2023

The Boston Celtics could begin their semifinals series against the Philadelphia 76ers with an advantage.

Philadelphia star and league MVP frontrunner Joel Embiid remains in recovery, dealing with a knee injury that plagued his availability during the first round against the Brooklyn Nets. Embiid missed the fourth and final game for the 76ers with much doubt surrounding the 29-year-old ahead of round 2 with Boston. 76ers head coach Doc Rivers also isn’t confident in Embiid’s status before Monday night’s Game 1 against the Celtics, citing it’s likely that he’ll be doubtful.

Nevertheless, the Celtics aren’t cutting corners in their preparation regardless of who’s available for Philadelphia.

“It doesn’t change our mindset, it does change our gameplan,” Malcolm Brogdon told reporters, per CLNS Media. “That’s a team that’s built around Joel, everything he does. … The games he hasn’t played, they’re 12-5, so they’re a really good team without him as well — on both sides of the ball. Without him defensively, I think everybody guards a little bit better. They don’t have a 7’1″ guy waiting at the rim. And then offensively, I think the ball moves more and everybody’s more aggressive and more confident.”

Embiid missed 16 games during the regular season, which gave the 76ers plenty of opportunity to prepare for the ocassion. This opens the window for Rivers to defer to others in his starting rotation to pick up the slack, which won’t be easy considering Embiid averaged 33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks during the regular season.

Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla, getting his first taste of the Boston-Philadelphia playoff rivalry at the helm, also notices a different look to the 76ers without their six-time All-Star alongside them on the floor.

“They play a little bit faster. Obviously, each guy is more aggressive,” Mazzulla said, per CLNS Media. “They’re more empowered. Whether it’s (James) Harden, whether it’s (Tyrese) Maxey, whether it’s (Tobias) Harris. Where they’re looking to affect the game in different ways and they play a little bit of a different pace. Definitely paying attention to some of those games, some of their play call frequency and kind of what their identity is as a team.”

Playing four games against the Celtics in the regular season, Embiid was particularly a nuisance to Boston. He averaged 36.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists and shot 61.2% from the field, being a frontcourt nightmare.

With homecourt advantage working to Boston’s side, the Celtics are positioned to get a favorable start as they push towards an Eastern Conference finals return.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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