Without the services of Joel Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers geared up for the second-round matchup with the Miami Heat, just trying to stay afloat. The news continues to be optimistic regarding the All-Star center’s injury, but his potential return is not set in stone.
Heading into Game 1, head coach Doc Rivers had a decision to make with his starting lineup. There were multiple avenues he could have gone at the starting center spot but opted to go with his veteran. After not playing against the Toronto Raptors in round one, DeAndre Jordan got the start for Philly against Miami.
Fans have never been high on Jordan since he arrived in Philly, and their displeasure was on full display throughout the course of the game. The veteran big man played 17 minutes in Game 1 and had a +/- of -17. Sixers Twitter did not hold back airing out Jordan for his lackluster showing against the Heat.
Despite how things unfolded, Rivers still stands by his decision. Following the loss, he said he plans to continue starting Jordan until Embiid is able to take the floor.
Sixers’ Small-Ball Experiment Yields Some Positive Results
Rivers likely opted with Jordan to add size and a lob threat alongside James Harden, but it quickly became apparent he could not play long stretches. In a more shocking turn of events, going small worked out extremely well for the Sixers.
When Paul Reed checked in for Jordan, the Sixers were able to quickly turn things around. Tobias Harris even some minutes at center and proved to be serviceable. They actually did better in Game 1 with no center than having a traditional big man on the floor.
Leading up to this game, Rivers mentioned he was planning to go multiple routes at center with Embiid out. While it has its flaws, the small-ball experiment might need more of a look moving forward.
The Rebounding Dilemma
All season, rebounding has been a glaring issue for the Sixers. Even when Embiid was in the lineup, they struggled to complete defensive possessions. With their dominant big man out of action, this issue reared its ugly head in a big way.
Similar to the Raptors, the Heat are a physical team that attacks the glass hard. If you allow them to create extra opportunities, they will make you pay. Miami snatched 15 offensive rebounds in Game 1, which led to 18 second-chance points.
While going small worked in stretches, it created one glaring matchup issue. With no true center to contain him, Heat center Bam Adebayo got whatever he wanted around the rim. On top of grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds, he tallied 24 points on 80% shooting from the floor. Paul Reed did what he could to try and contain Adebayo but quickly found himself racking up fouls.
While experience is typically needed in the postseason, Rivers might be better off embracing his youth. Reed has proven he can hang around in physical frontcourt battles. Now, it might be time to give rookie Charles Bassey a chance to see if he can provide similar energy. The Sixers must pull out all the stops if they want to remain competitive until Embiid is back in the mix.