Friday, September 22 2023

Sixers turn focus to Nets, get stars back in action as playoff prep begins originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

After a couple of games with young players like Jaden Springer, Mac McClung and Louis King in the spotlight, the Sixers had bigger names back in action for their first pre-playoffs practice ahead of a first-round series against the Nets.

That included back-to-back scoring champion Joel Embiid and assists title winner James Harden.

“They looked exactly like Joel and James today,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday with a smile. “No, they looked good. They looked fresh, if that’s possible. They both look healthy. Yeah, they looked good.”

Despite Harden saying on March 29 that his left Achilles soreness had been “bothering him for months,” Rivers framed the 33-year-old’s health situation as significantly better than it was last postseason. Harden was limited by a lingering left hamstring issue during his first playoff run as a Sixer.

“James is healthy now, though,” Rivers said. “Last year, that had to be tough. I’ve never been injured that late, getting into the playoffs. Not being in great shape in the playoffs is not a great place to be, because everybody’s running at their maximum level, physically and mentally. And if you’re not, it’s not going to go well for you. And so James found that out last year.”

On Tuesday, Rivers said Danuel House Jr. and Dewayne Dedmon missed practice. According to Rivers, House “hurt his foot in one of the (final) two games, but I think he’ll be OK,” while Dedmon’s absence was “just for today.”

For the players who participated, Rivers stressed the importance of maintaining offensive flow as opposed to being bogged down by matchup-hunting against the switch-heavy Nets.

“The challenge is that you can get stagnant. That’s why people switch. … We’ve got to have quick rolls. We’ve got to have quick downhill actions. It’s a lot of what we do anyway. And then the decision they’ll make is they’ll switch some people with Joel and some they won’t, and we have to have the ability to see the difference.”

Of course, some deliberate, isolation-focused possessions can work just fine for the Sixers given their top-end talent.

If it takes a while to get Harden going at Seth Curry or Tyrese Maxey against backup big man Day’Ron Sharpe, that’s likely worthwhile.

“We like to find different matchups that we like,” Maxey said. “They have a lot of long and lengthy defenders who can all guard, but you can attack the switches with speed, attack with pace, run your stuff. And then also, when you get rebounds, you get out and run. They get smaller in the open court. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Rivers also emphasized Brooklyn’s ability to hurt the Sixers from long range. Though the Nets only ranked 20th in three-point percentage since Bridges’ Feb. 11 debut, they were fifth in three-point frequency and clearly are not short on quality shooters, among them Joe Harris, Cameron Johnson and Curry.

“Obviously, their versatility on the offensive end, their ability to drive and kick, and just the way they can shoot the three-ball,” Tobias Harris said. “We obviously know that they’re a young, energetic group that gets up and down, plays at a fast pace. … We have to limit the amount of open threes that they get, the amount of open looks they get overall. … We know what to expect from that group and those guys over there.”

The Sixers want to be sure they’re appropriately wary of the Nets’ various strengths before Game 1 on Saturday afternoon.

Still, Rivers reiterated Tuesday that this is the best he’s felt about one of his Sixers teams heading into the playoffs.

“Yeah, no doubt,” he said. “We have a great group. We have cooperation from coach to player, player to coach, all around. We’re talented.

“Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do and we’ve got tough things in front of us. We get all that. But I don’t look at them, I just look at us. And us? We’re pretty good.”

Source: Yahoo Sports


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