On Wednesday evening, the Boston Celtics are hosting the Philadelphia 76ers for Game 2 of their second-round playoff series.
For the game, both teams have finalized their injury reports and starting lineups.
The 76ers have upgraded Joel Embiid to available, and no one else is on their injury report, so they are fully healthy for Game 2.
As for the Celtics, they will be without Danilo Gallinari, while All-Star forward Jaylen Brown and 2022 Defensive Player of The Year Marcus Smart are available.
He went through normal pregame drills Wednesday evening with a brace on the knee and was moving around without any issues. Embiid was ruled out 90 minutes before tipoff of the Sixers’ Game 1 victory on Monday night.
He was the last player to appear on the court during Monday morning’s shootaround, but it was a total reversal Wednesday when the team arrived at TD Garden. Embiid was the first player to walk into the arena bowl, quickly got his shoes on and began getting up shots for several minutes before the media’s 15-minute viewing period expired and shootaround got underway.
When asked after shootaround how he was feeling, Embiid said there was a “possibility” he would return but that he will rely on the advice of the team’s medical staff.
“I’m going to listen to those guys and see what they have to say, the doctors, and obviously I want to play,” Embiid said. “Everybody who knows me, I just love being on the court and I love to play. There’s a possibility, and if I get the green light, we’re going to go ahead.
“But I feel pretty good, just like I felt about the last game. I felt like we had a huge opportunity and we were gonna win, and tonight, whether I play or not, I believe in those guys.
Embiid went through a full workout Tuesday, which sources said went well, but the determining factor for Game 2 will be to see how his knee responded to that exertion.
“It’s just health-based,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday afternoon. “If he can play, he plays. If he can’t, he can’t. And if it’s 50-50, we would probably err on the other side and not have him play, because we’ve done that all year.”
Philadelphia is trying to take a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series after James Harden’s spectacular 45-point performance stunned the Celtics in Game 1.
Embiid sustained the injury April 20 when he landed awkwardly after contesting a shot by Brooklyn Nets forward Cam Johnson in Game 3 of Philadelphia’s first-round sweep.
Philly is just 1-8 in nine playoff games against Boston with Embiid on the floor. If you’re looking for a more recent sample size, the Celtics went 3-1 against Embiid and the Sixers this season, their only loss coming in a game Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams didn’t play.
Embiid literally was just named the best player in the NBA. So, why does Boston play Philly better when he’s on the court? It helps to consider the Sixers’ team stats with and without Embiid during the 2022-23 regular season, which hints at a more up-tempo style of play without their 7-foot big man.
Harden matched his playoff career high with 45 points and hit a go-ahead, step-back 3-pointer over Al Horford with 8.7 seconds left as the 76ers rallied without Embiid to beat Boston 119-115 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Monday night.
“We didn’t come into the game expecting to lose. We came in here to win,” Harden said. “Whether Jo comes back or not, we’re going to be ready to go.”
Tyrese Maxey added 26 points and Tobias Harris finished with 18 for the Sixers, who made 17 3-pointers with Embiid watching from the bench. He sprained his right knee in Game 3 of Philadelphia’s first-round sweep of the Brooklyn Nets.
After the Sixers endured an early scoring onslaught from the Celtics, 76ers coach Doc Rivers said Harden was patient and knew when to attack and when to pass.
Rivers said having a week to prepare for the likelihood Embiid would be out was key.
“That’s the difference between this year’s team and last year’s team. We have a bunch of street fighters,” Rivers said. “If we could get to the fourth quarter, we were going to win the game. That’s how we felt.”
On the other end, the key stat to note is steals: Philly averaged 1.1 fewer steals in games Embiid played this season, which is good news for a Celtics team that was plagued by 16 turnovers in Game 1. The C’s are 53-19 this season when they keep turnovers under 16 and will have a much better chance of winning Game 2 if they can improve their ball control.
Philly will be motivated to win for its MVP on Wednesday night, and he could put the team on his back to give the Sixers at 2-0 lead. But there’s evidence to suggest the Celtics might be glad to see him back on the court at TD Garden.
In his pregame media session Wednesday, Rivers noted the Sixers would prefer for Embiid to have his typical substitution pattern, though he said the team had an alternate plan ready if extended stints ultimately weren’t feasible. Rivers said the Sixers would not let Embiid play in a game unless he was healthy.
Celtics guard Marcus Smart was also available to play Game 2 after being listed as questionable with a chest contusion. “It’s hard to win this league; it’s hard to be successful in this league,” Embiid said after Philadelphia’s shootaround at TD Garden ahead of Wednesday’s Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Celtics. “There’s a reason why these are the best basketball players in the world. And to be sitting here and feel like I won something as far as the Most Valuable Player is great. But then again, it’s also part of my story because I’ve always felt like I was a role model especially to my Cameroonian people and my African people and I feel like, just looking at my story, they can look at it and be like, ‘Wow, he did it.’
“Probably the probability of someone like me, starting playing basketball at 15, to get the chance to be the MVP of the league is, I’d say, probably negative zero. We don’t have a lot of opportunities back in Africa in general to get to this point. But improbable doesn’t mean impossible, and you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. As long as you believe in it, and you know, keep working hard, anything can happen.”
Embiid also credited his teammates, whom he asked to be with him Tuesday night when it was announced he was the winner, for helping him achieve this goal. He specifically credited James Harden, who hugged him and presented Embiid with a gold Rolex watch that had “MVP 23” inscribed on the back.
“I think since he’s been here, he won’t tell me, but I think he kind of made it his goal for me to be the MVP,” Embiid said of Harden. “He’s given up a lot. I’ve always said he is the best playmaker I’ve ever played with, and he’s the best playmaker probably in the NBA.
“He was just extremely happy for me, just like all of my teammates were. And that meant a lot for me. That meant a lot to me, to know that your teammates care about you as much as I care about them.”
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