NBA

Sixers coach Rivers 'expects' to have Embiid back for Celtics clash

By Sports Desk January 19, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said he "expects" All-Star Joel Embiid to return for Wednesday's showdown with rivals the Boston Celtics.

Embiid sat out Saturday's 106-104 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies due to right knee soreness, and the three-time NBA All-Star would have been absent again if Sunday's clash against the Oklahoma City Thunder was not postponed.

But Embiid took part in practice on Tuesday and Rivers is bracing for the 76ers center to make a comeback as two of the Eastern Conference's best teams meet midweek.

"I do expect him to go," Rivers said. "He was in and out of practice today, we didn't let him do a lot of stuff, but he looked pretty good."

Embiid – an early MVP candidate – is averaging 25.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game for the 76ers (9-5) this season.

The 26-year-old has relied on his jump shot even more this season but has instead taken most of them inside the arc.

Embiid – whose 76ers are 9-2 when he plays and 0-3 without him this term – has seen his jump shot field-goal percentage rise 8.2 per cent to 45.6 per cent in 2020-21.

The 76ers have been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, with Philadelphia left shorthanded since Seth Curry's positive COVID-19 test on January 7.

Philadelphia and Oklahoma City were scheduled to meet at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday, but the 76ers did not have the required eight players available because of contact tracing with the team.

But the 76ers – minus Curry – were back to full strength for Tuesday's practice, much to the delight of Rivers.

"It was nice," said Rivers. "We're not one of those teams that have the luxury of being together for several years. We have so many new bodies, a new system, new coach, everything.

"To have all those games and no practice and then to have all those guys out, and even your shoot arounds are not what you expect them to be, it absolutely has affected us."

Rivers added: "Even on a couple of days we have a somewhat of a practice, we didn't have enough guys to practice. Today was a day we had enough guys, we can change, we can sub in practice and put different units on the floor."

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