Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra sends strong message to Sixers star Joel Embiid

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Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra knows what’s coming around the corner. Joel Embiid has “felt better” as he recovers from an orbital bone fracture and a minor concussion. The Sixers remain hopeful that their MVP nominee will return for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

That’s why it was doubly important for the Heat to take care of business in Game 1. Which they did. But don’t think for a moment that Spoelstra lives in fear of Embiid’s impending return. Every game in the playoffs counts the same.

“You don’t want to add any more context, you want to stay in the present moment,” Spoelstra told reporters. “It’s really trying to do whatever you need to do to get the next game or the game at hand. And that’s all we’re going to focus on.

“We didn’t have a discussion about ‘Hey, we have to win.’ I think that adds a different kind of context and pressure. It’s all about going out there and putting together your best game plan to win this game and that’s what we’re going to focus on for the next 48 hours just to win Game 2.”

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Embiid’s absence has caused Doc Rivers to turn into a mad scientist. The Sixers head coach played 32 different lineup combinations in Game 1, including one featuring DeAndre Jordan and Furkan Korkmaz shared the yard together in the fourth quarter. While some of his early rotations kept the Heat in check, the sum of those parts amounted to a loss.

“We’re going to try everything,” Rivers told reporters on NBC Sports Philadelphia. “Really. We won’t be shy about playing other guys.”

After a 106-92 loss, Rivers will likely return to the drawing board to steal Game 2 on the street. Spoelstra has no doubt his savvy opponent will make the necessary adjustments. Remember the Sixers almost pulled out Game 1 without Embiid.

“Doc is a great coach, a brilliant mind, he will come up with something,” said Spoelstra. “And we will try to make our adjustments, even without [Joel] Embiid, they have great firepower. Harden creates a lot of things that you have to be extremely nervous about, and [Tyrese] Maxey just kept getting better, and [Tobias] Harris just killed us tonight.”

Joel Embiid won’t fit for the Sixers in Game 2, according to NBA injury report. He was the only Philly player ruled out Tuesday night. That could mean more minutes for rookie center Charles Bassey, who made his postseason debut in Game 1 and scored 2 points in 5 minutes of trash-time basketball.

DeAndre Jordan, Paul Reed and Paul Millsap formed a three-headed monster in middle position Monday night as Embiid was out. Georges Niang and Tobias Harris also alternately played the 5th

“I think it’s a joint effort by those three [Jordan, Reed, Millsap] who’s going to get the most minutes in the middle position,” James Harden said, “and I think tonight we went with Tobias [Harris] and George [Niang] also inside. There will be different casts. It’s just the position we’re in and we just have to figure it out.

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