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76ers star Joel Embiid ‘good’ physically after Game 2 return

Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers said that Joel Embiid, the NBA’s newly minted Most Valuable Player, came through Philadelphia’s loss in Game 2 of its Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Boston Celtics feeling good physically, and that his motion-tracking numbers were “phenomenal.”

“He looked good, and his numbers were great,” Rivers said at the team’s practice facility Thursday ahead of Game 3 in Philadelphia on Friday night. “We didn’t play well, but just the speed that he reached, you know, 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. So that’s what we needed to find out.

“Obviously we didn’t win the game. But that’s important for us.”

Embiid returned from a sprained LCL in his right knee to start Game 2, playing 27 minutes and finishing with 15 points and five blocks. He said he felt good and was virtually the only thing that went right in a game Boston blew open in the second half to win 121-87.

Rivers, while admitting that the fact Boston became the 15th consecutive team to win Game 2 of a series at home after losing Game 1 was not surprising, was disappointed with how his team allowed the Celtics to dictate the terms of engagement.

“I just thought when you watch the game, they did everything they wanted to do offensively,” Rivers said. “We didn’t supply a lot of pressure at all. We weren’t into the ball, they moved the ball. I mean, today, guys, it looked like a couple possessions they were in shootaround. They were just playing with nobody in front of them, no resistance. And so we will do that better.

“But then they didn’t allow us to do that. So if you’re going to have one team in your airspace, and not allowing you to move and 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.”

He also dismissed the notion that Philadelphia, which won Game 1 without Embiid behind 45 points from James Harden, was going to have a difficult time working Embiid back into the mix.

“It’s not that hard,” Rivers said. “We’re making too much of it. We really are. I mean, should we just play different the rest of the year now, or should we play the way we played all year? You know what I mean? This is not rocket science. And it’s not that hard to do.

“We didn’t play well. I thought their ball pressure took us out of everything. It wouldn’t have mattered if Joel was there or not. We would have had a tough offensive night, you know, with the way we allowed them to play inside of us. They pushed us all around. They rolled us off of spots. We couldn’t get organized because of their pressure. So we’ll be better.”

As the series shifts to Philadelphia for Game 3, Rivers said he expects the home crowd — which is hoping to see the 76ers reach the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2001 — to be amped. Embiid will be honored before the game for winning his first MVP award.

“The fans are going to be great,” Rivers said. “They’re going to be charged up, to say the least.

“We need it. It’s good. It’s good to have. Typically, role players play better at home. So I hope that is true.”

This story originally appeared on ESPN

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