Coach Brett Brown admits that the 76ers’ situation isn’t ideal: His starting lineup has played just 10 games together heading into the postseason.
Yes, his starting lineup is 8-2 in those 10 games, but the coach wishes he had many more such games.
“To say we are all prepared and ready go to isn’t true,” Brown said after the 125-109 win over the visiting Chicago Bulls on Wednesday in the regular-season finale.
Brown is hoping the Sixers can simply flip on the switch when they open their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against the Nets at the Wells Fargo Center at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
They’ll be facing a team that finished 42-40 and is in the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
“The good news is we have talent,” Brown said, of his team, which went 51-31. “We are hoping to jump into the playoffs, find the wave, ride the current, and play good basketball. But to suggest we have had a season’s worth of preparation is really just factually wrong …”
Sixers general manager Elton Brand couldn’t say for sure Wednesday that All-Star center Joel Embiid will play Saturday.
Embiid missed five of the last seven games and 14 of the final 24 for what the team has described as load management and left knee soreness.
He is the key for any success the Sixers have in the postseason. In four games against the Nets during the regular season, Embiid averaged 30 points, 14.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.25 blocked shots. The teams split the season series.
And even if he plays, Embiid’s conditioning could be in question.
The same is the case for Jimmy Butler: The starting forward has been suffering from a lower-back injury that forced him to miss four of the final six games.
It is not all gloom and doom for the Sixers.
JJ Redick is having what Brand called a career year. He’s the type of dangerous long-range shooter who helps spread the floor for his teammates.
Redick, 34, sat out the final two regular-season games after the Sixers clinched the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference.
Over his last six games he averaged 23.7 points per game and shot 46.3 percent from three-point range. For the season, he averaged a career-high 18.1 points and shot 39.7 percent from beyond the arc.
As well as Redick has been shooting, the Nets will likely try to exploit him on the defensive end.
Brown said pick-and-roll defense is a major concern against a Nets team whose guards, D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie, thrive in those situations. The Sixers definitely need perimeter shooting, but Brown is worried about how much energy Redick will expend in defending the pick-and-roll. Still, the coach may have no choice but to use Redick for extended minutes.
Brown also talked about cutting back the rotation in the playoffs to “eight-and-a-half players.” That likely means more minutes for the starters.
One has to wonder, with how little Embiid and Butler have played recently, if either player will be able to log extended minutes, at least in the beginning of the series.