Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra Sends Strong Message on Sixers Star Joel Embiid

Erik Spoelstra, Joel Embiid

Getty Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra jokes with Sixers star Joel Embiid at the 2022 All-Star Game on Team Durant.

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra knows what’s around the corner. Joel Embiid has been “feeling better” as he recovers from an orbital bone fracture and a mild concussion. The Sixers remain hopeful their MVP candidate will return for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

That’s why it was doubly important for the Heat to take care of business in Game 1. Which they did. But don’t think for a moment that Spoelstra is living in fear of Embiid’s impending return. Every game in the playoffs counts the same.

“You don’t want to add more context to anything, you want to stay in the present moment,” Spoelstra told reporters. “It’s really trying to do whatever you have to do to get the next game or the game at hand. And that’s all we’re going to focus on.

“We haven’t had any discussion about ‘Hey, we have to win.’ I think that adds a different kind of context and pressure. It’s just about going out and putting together your best gameplan to win that game, and that’s what we’ll focus on for the next 48 hours, just to win Game 2.”

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Doc Rivers Used 32 Different Lineups

Embiid’s absence has caused Doc Rivers to turn into a mad scientist. The Sixers’ head coach ran through 32 different lineup combinations in Game 1, including one where DeAndre Jordan and Furkan Korkmaz shared the court together in the fourth quarter. While some of his early rotations kept the Heat at bay, the sum of those parts equaled a loss.

“We’re going to try anything,” Rivers told reporters, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “Really. We’re not going to be shy with playing different guys.”

Following a 106-92 loss, Rivers will likely go back to the drawing board in an effort to steal Game 2 on the road. Spoelstra has no doubt that his accomplished adversary will make the necessary adjustments. Remember, the Sixers nearly pulled out Game 1 without Embiid.

“Doc is a great coach, brilliant mind, he’ll come up with something,” Spoelstra said. “And we’ll try and make our adjustments and they, even without [Joel] Embiid, they have some great firepower. Harden creates a lot of things that you have to be ultra on edge about, and [Tyrese] Maxey has just continued to improve, and [Tobias] Harris was just killing us tonight.”

Embiid Ruled Out: No Timetable for Return

Joel Embiid won’t suit up for the Sixers in Game 2, according to the NBA injury report. He was the only Philly player ruled out as of Tuesday evening. That could mean more minutes for rookie center Charles Bassey who made his postseason debut in Game 1 and scored 2 points in 5 minutes of garbage time basketball.

DeAndre Jordan, Paul Reed, and Paul Millsap formed a three-headed monster at the center position with Embiid out on Monday night. Georges Niang and Tobias Harris also took turns playing the 5.

“I think it’s a collective effort from those three [Jordan, Reed, Millsap] who will be getting the majority of the minutes at the center position,” James Harden said, “and I think tonight we went with Tobias [Harris] and Georges [Niang] in there as well. It’s going to be different lineups. It’s just the position we’re in and we just got to figure it out.”

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