PHILADELPHIA — After losing Game 1 to the Nets, 76ers coach Brett Brown said before Game 2 Monday night that the minutes restriction on center Joel Embiid because of pain in his left knee might have a profound impact on the first-round playoff series. In fact, he traced the 76ers’ lack of offensive cohesion in Game 1 to the fact that he played only 24 minutes.
“I didn’t feel at all that there was a rhythm to how we have been playing,” Brown said. “Some of Joel’s lack of playing and his inevitable lack of conditioning, which is connected, didn’t allow us to go to him as much as I wished.”
Embiid had 22 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks in Game 1, but he couldn’t dominate as much as usual because of limited time.
He had 23 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes in the 76ers’ 145-123 victory in Game 2.
Explaining the process, Brown said before the game, “There’s a group of doctors, just a handful, in collaboration with Joel, that come back and give me the answer.” Asked if Embiid’s playing time would be about the same, Brown said, “That will be part and parcel of the information I get: ‘Yes, he can play, and this is what the minute expectations are.’ We’ll learn about that [from the doctors and Embiid].”
By now, Brown said, he is numb to pregame worry about whether his star will be available because there is a game plan either way. He said the 76ers simply are trying to “buy time” for Embiid to get healthy enough to go deeper in the playoffs.
“This is the path we’re on with Joel,” Brown said. “There is zero doubt he is our crown jewel.”
Asked how his game plans differ with or without Embiid, Brown pointed up with his right hand and said, “Here’s night.” With his left hand, he pointed in the opposite direction. “And here’s day. That’s the truth. It’s Joel Embiid.”