Even 76ers coach Brett Brown is raring to go.
Don’t think for a second the Sixers completely enjoyed not playing since Tuesday while awaiting their next opponent.
“I can see in their faces that they are spirited, they are rested, for sure,” Brown said following Saturday’s afternoon practice. “But they’re also antsy. They want to play. They want an opponent.”
Brown added that he, too, is antsy.
He said he couldn’t wait to sit back and watch the Boston Celtics host the Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden in Game 7 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal. The Celtics won, advancing to face the Sixers in the conference semifinal round.
“I’m excited more to play than I am to watch the game,” Brown said. “I think I sort of share the game feeling as our players do.”
The Celtics get home-court advantage in the best-of-seven series. Boston hosts Philly at 8 p.m. Monday in Game 1 at the Garden. Game 2 of the best-of-seven series would be 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Garden before the third and fourth games would be at Wells Fargo Center.
We will find out if the Sixers are well rested or slightly rusty when they play after five days off.
That’s because, there’s a rhythm to playing in the NBA: Play one night, no game the next, then a game the next night or next two nights, followed by a rest day and another game night or practice. That cycle repeats for six months. It’s a routine to which the players become accustomed.
Yet, as the Sixers are learning, the playoffs can become different. Sweep or win a series in five games, your team will receive considerable time off. Philly hasn’t played since closing out the Miami Heat in five games.
The five full days without a game shouldn’t hurt. It gave the Sixers time to rest, improve and prepare for their first conference semifinal appearance since 2012. More importantly, it gave them an opportunity to have meaningful practices with Joel Embiid The all-star center returned for the final three games of the Heat series, all three games ending in Sixers victories, after missing 10 straight games. He had suffered a fractured orbital bone near his left eye on March 28 against the New York Knicks.
To combat any rust, Brown made sure his team worked on its conditioning. Saturday’s 1-hour, 50-minute practice was highlighted by a spirited scrimmage. It followed up a five-on-five scrimmage the team went through on Thursday. The Sixers were given the day off on Wednesday.
“I think everybody is a little bit antsy,” Ben Simmons said. “I’m fine. I just feel like whoever we play, we will be ready for our matchup.”