The Philadelphia 76ers supporters may have jeered Doc Rivers, but the Milwaukee Bucks coach took the hostile reception in his stride as his new team won big on Sunday.

Rivers was dismissed by the Sixers eight months ago following a disappointing end to a season in which Joel Embiid was named the NBA's MVP.

Yet Rivers came out smiling after his return to Philadelphia on Sunday, with the Bucks having run out 119-98 victors.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (30) and Damian Lillard (24) combined for 54 points as the Bucks followed up their win over the Minnesota Timberwolves with a statement victory over a rival in the East.

And while Rivers received a frosty reception, he was all smiles after the game.

"I didn't even hear it, to be honest. That means I was back at home," he quipped.

"It was awesome. Really. I had three good years here, not talking about basketball, just in life. I enjoyed my stay here and made friends for life here.

"The fans were good, too. There were a couple of hilarious comments. One guy told me that Larry David was looking for me to golf. I thought that was pretty funny."

Reflecting on his tenure in charge of the Sixers, Rivers added: "I'm happy with it overall, I just wish we could've gone further.

"I wish we could have had a chance to have Joel healthy in the playoffs.

"But overall, Joel became an MVP, and we established this team as a championship contender. That wasn't said the year before.

"You think about it, we had the James Harden trade, the Ben [Simmons] stuff. Some was under my control, some was out of my control, but overall, for me, if you don't win a title, you're never exactly happy. That's why we all do this."

The Bucks are 5-7 under Rivers, who replaced Adrian Griffin in January. Antetokounmpo, though, is relishing the challenge under his new coach.

"I love him," Antetokounmpo said. "It's been incredible playing for him. He just explains to me, what he wants from me.

"You respect him because he's been 25 years in the league. You've got to respect what he's done in the league, won a championship, won a lot of games, but when he comes in the locker room, he keeps it simple."

The Bucks are third in the East, four wins ahead of the 76ers with a 37-21 record.

"I thought we were consistent," Lillard said. "We got into the paint, we were willing to make the extra pass to find the open guy and we got quality looks.

"To play good offense you find quality shots and have a lot of mix. I thought that’s what we did."

Rivers added: "We had been putting such an emphasis on defense.

"The last few games we’ve been terrific. When you have Giannis on your team, if you can get stops and get him in transition, Giannis in transition is a problem for everybody."

Giannis Antetokounmpo lauded Doc Rivers for bringing "high standards" to the Milwaukee Bucks after Monday's big win over the Denver Nuggets.

The Bucks ran out 112-95 winners over the reigning NBA champions, with Giannis finishing with a double-double of 36 points and 18 rebounds.

Milwaukee have won their last two games, after a three-game losing spin, and sit third in the Eastern Conference with a 35-19 record ahead of Tuesday's meeting with the Miami Heat.

While Rivers has not had the easiest of starts in charge since he replaced Adrian Griffin, the Bucks have now held successive opponents to under 100 points for the first time since 2021.

And Giannis credited the former Philadelphia 76ers coach for setting the standards high since his arrival.

"Guys are just being on the same page," Giannis said.

"Coach Doc is holding us to a high standard. He wants us to defend.

"He doesn't take lack of effort as an excuse. If you're on the floor, you've got to do your best."

The defensive organisation was particularly pleasing for Rivers.

"Just steady progress," he said. "Believing in your defense, trusting it, clarifying it, what we want to do.

"The more we can get our guys to know exactly what we're doing, they can play at full speed. That's what we're trying to do. Simplify, so we can play with fire."

Damian Lillard added: "I just think it's the accountability. When we're watching film, we're in our meetings, in practice, I think Doc and our entire staff, they're doing a great job of just calling everything out.

"They're challenging us in a lot of different ways. Our communication, how physical we are, how we carry ourselves as a group.

"Trying to find our identity. Who do we want to be? Who are we going to step like when we get on the floor? And I think we're just having a lot of carryover because there's so much conversation around it."

Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Denver sit fourth in the West.

Recent acquisition Buddy Hield scored 24 points and the Philadelphia 76ers held on late to end the Cleveland Cavaliers' nine-game winning streak with Monday's 123-121 victory.

Despite still being without injured reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid, Philadelphia handed the red-hot Cavaliers just their second loss in their last 19 games behind hot-shooting efforts from Hield and Kelly Oubre Jr. 

Hield, making his third appearance since being acquired by the Sixers from the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, finished 5 of 8 from 3-point range and 9 of 13 overall from the field. Oubre hit 10 of his 14 field goal attempts while also collecting 24 points.

The win was Philadelphia's second straight following a 1-8 stretch from Jan. 25-Feb. 9, during which the team lost Embiid for an extended period due to a knee injury that required surgery.

Cleveland got 36 points and six assists from All-Star Donovan Mitchell and 21 points and 10 rebounds from Jarrett Allen, but couldn't match the Sixers down the stretch after taking a 102-100 lead with seven minutes remaining.

Hield scored the final eight points of a 13-2 run that gave Philadelphia a 113-104 advantage with 4:28 left to play, and the 76ers led 120-110 with 1:25 to go following an Oubre 3-pointer.

The Cavs responded with a 9-0 spurt to pull within 120-119 on Mitchell's 3-pointer with 14 seconds remaining, and had a chance to win at the buzzer when Darius Garland launched a 3-point shot that just missed the mark.

Garland ended with 21 points and nine assists, while Tyrese Maxey recorded 22 points and nine assists for Philadelphia.

Timberwolves dominate second half in rout of Clippers

The Minnesota Timberwolves got 24 points from Karl-Anthony Towns and a big third quarter to pull away for a 121-100 win over the Los Angeles Clippers and pad their lead atop the Western Conference.

Anthony Edwards added 23 points, 12 of which came during a dominant third quarter in which the Timberwolves outscored Los Angeles by a 40-19 margin.

Minnesota entered Monday's clash owning a slim half-game advantage on the Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets, who were handed a 112-95 defeat by the Milwaukee Bucks, in the tightly bunched West standings. 

The Clippers kept it close until the latter stages of the third quarter, as the Timberwolves held a 70-69 edge with under five minutes left in the period.

Minnesota took over from there, as it closed out the quarter on a 19-3 run to take a commanding 89-72 lead into the fourth. Towns had eight points during the pivotal spurt.

The Timberwolves maintained a lead of 15 points or more throughout the final period en route to posting a second straight win and giving Los Angeles a second loss in its last three games.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George led the Clippers with 18 points each, while James Harden finished with 17 points and six assists. 

Bucks use defence to get past champion Nuggets

The Milwaukee Bucks got 36 points and 18 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo and another strong performance from their much-maligned defence to hand the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets a 112-95 loss.

Milwaukee entered Monday's marquee matchup ranked 23rd in the NBA in scoring defence at 119.3 points allowed per game, but held the formidable Nuggets to their second-lowest shooting rate of the season at 38.3 per cent.

The Bucks have yielded under 100 points in consecutive games for the first time this season. Milwaukee lost five of its first six outings under new head coach Doc Rivers prior to Friday's 120-84 rout of the Charlotte Hornets.

Nikola Jokić amassed 29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists for the Nuggets. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., Denver's second and third-leading scorers on the season, were a combined 4 of 16 from the field, however.

Murray managed just three points on 1-of-5 shooting before sitting out the second half due to inflammation in his lower legs.

The Bucks had built a comfortable 60-44 lead at that point as Antetokounmpo racked up 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting over the first two quarters. The Nuggets never got their deficit under 13 points the rest of the way and are now mired in a two-game losing streak.

 

Milwaukee Bucks coach Doc Rivers is less than impressed after Saturday's win over the Dallas Mavericks meant he is set to coach in the All-Star game.

Rivers picked up his first win as Bucks coach as Giannis' Antetokounmpo's 48 points inspired Milwaukee to a 129-117 comeback victory, while Damian Lillard had 30 points on 10-of-11 shooting.

Yet that victory means the Bucks' coach is now obligated to take charge of the Eastern Conference team in the All-Star game on February 18.

That is because Joe Mazzulla, the Boston Celtics coach, is ineligible after coaching in the All-Star game last year. Given the Bucks have the second-best record in the East two weeks before the event, the task will fall to Rivers.

But after just three games in charge of his new team, Rivers – who replaced Adrian Griffin last month – was far from impressed with that outcome.

"It's ridiculously bad. It really is," Rivers said.

"Well, Adrian's going to get some money, that's for sure. And a ring. It's one of those quirky things.

"I think there should be a rule somehow that someone else does it, other than me. Maybe I'll send my staff, and I'll go on vacation.

"I'll run that by Adam Silver. Adam's a good man, I think he'll understand."

Luka Doncic finished with 40 points for the Mavericks, who lost a second straight game.

"Looking at what Milwaukee did, they just kept playing and took our best shot there in the first half and then ended the half on a positive with Dame making that three at the buzzer," Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. "We didn't take care of the ball."

Giannis Antetokounmpo has full faith in new Milwaukee Bucks coach Doc Rivers despite his opening defeat to the Denver Nuggets on Monday.

Rivers made his Bucks bow on the sideline in Denver after replacing first-year coach Adrian Griffin, but Milwaukee were beaten 113-107 by another of the NBA's best teams.

An NBA champion as coach of the Boston Celtics in 2008, Rivers is vastly experienced but is taking over a team in the middle of a season for the first time.

There will be an adjustment period, but that is something superstar Antetokounmpo is prepared for.

"He was great," the two-time MVP said of Rivers. "Everybody has to have patience. It's new – the way we play, the way we defend, it's going to take a while to get used to.

"We're slowly, slowly adjusting, changing a couple stuff. Coaching staff have got to have patience with the players; players have got to have patience with the coaching staff.

"But I feel like for the first game, it was good."

Indeed, for all the criticism of the Bucks' defense, Rivers felt the blame for the loss to the Nuggets lay with an offense led by Antetokounmpo and offseason signing Damian Lillard.

"I told our guys: anyone who told you that you couldn't play defense lied," Rivers said afterwards. "You proved that tonight. You competed tonight. Our half-court defense was excellent.

"I think tonight was an offensive loss. I didn't think we were crisp offensively.

"Dame and Giannis have played 40 games together in their life, Joker [Nikola Jokic] and [Jamal] Murray have played... you know?

"And if you looked at the game tonight, they had it going, our guys couldn't get it going, and that was the difference."

If not for Rivers' return to the coaching arena, the focus in this game would have been on a battle between Antetokounmpo and Jokic that the Nuggets center edged, finishing with a triple-double of 25 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists.

"That's why I play, to play these kinds of games, to play under the pressure, to play tight games," Jokic said. "I like to play under those circumstances."

Anthony Edwards scored 27 points and helped spark a late run that propelled the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 107-101 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday in a clash of teams that had been tied for the Western Conference lead. 

Karl-Anthony Towns had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Rudy Gobert amassed 12 points and 18 rebounds as the Timberwolves bounced back from Saturday's one-point loss at Sacramento and dropped the Thunder to third place in the tightly bunched conference standings.

The Denver Nuggets moved a half-game ahead of Oklahoma City and remained a half-game behind Minnesota with Monday's win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Oklahoma City had erased a 10-point third-quarter deficit to take a 97-96 lead on two Shai Gilgeous-Alexander free throws with 2:43 left, but Minnesota's Jaden McDaniels hit a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to start a pivotal 9-0 spurt.

The Thunder would miss their next four shots as the Timberwolves began pulling away. Edwards followed McDaniels' trey with a running dunk and McDaniels scored on a tip-in before Towns capped the run with two free throws that put Minnesota up 105-97 with 15.5 seconds to go. 

Minnesota owned a 62-52 advantage nearing the midway mark of the third quarter before the Thunder seized momentum with an 11-0 run. Gilgeous-Alexander had six points and Jalen Williams scored the last five of the flurry, which gave Oklahoma City a 63-62 edge with five minutes left in the period.

The Thunder, who were coming off a stunning 120-104 loss to the NBA-worst Detroit Pistons on Sunday, received 37 points and eight assists from Gilgeous-Alexander and 20 points from Williams. 

Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City's third-leading scorer at 17 points per game, was held to just four points on 2-of-9 shooting, however, as the Timberwolves finished with a 46-34 point advantage in the paint.

Jokic has another triple-double as Nuggets spoil Rivers' debut with Bucks

Jamal Murray scored 35 points and Nikola Jokić posted his 14th triple-double of the season to power the Denver Nuggets to a 113-107 win over Milwaukee in Doc Rivers' first game as the Bucks' head coach.

Jokic compiled 25 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists to add to his league-leading triple-double count and help the defending NBA champions keep pace with first-place Minnesota in the West. The Nuggets have now won five of their last six games.

Rivers, who coached the Boston Celtics to an NBA title during the 2007-08 season, was hired shortly after the Bucks dismissed Adrian Griffin on Jan. 23 despite sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference with a 30-13 record. Assistant Joe Prunty coached Milwaukee's last three games and went 2-1.

The veteran coach's tenure started off strong as the Bucks jumped out to a 24-11 lead midway through the first quarter, though the Nuggets ended the period on a 12-0 run to cut their deficit to 26-25 entering the second. 

Denver gradually asserted control and owned an 84-75 advantage early in the fourth quarter, but the Bucks hit three straight 3-pointers during a 13-2 spurt that put them back ahead with under nine minutes to play.

The game remained tight until the Nuggets pulled away with an 8-0 run, which Murray capped with a jumper that gave Denver a 106-97 lead with 3:17 to go.

Giannis Antetokounmpo paced Milwaukee with 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting along with 12 rebounds, while Brook Lopez had 19 points and Damian Lillard finished with 18 in the loss. 

Suns bounce back by handing Heat seventh straight loss

The Phoenix Suns kept rolling behind a balanced attack and strong defence that resulted in a 118-105 victory over the reeling Miami Heat, the seventh consecutive loss for the defending Eastern Conference champions.

Eric Gordon scored 23 points off the bench to lead six Phoenix players in double figures in a game the Suns led by as much as 28 points en route to stopping a two-game losing streak.

The Suns also got 22 points from Devin Booker and 20 from Kevin Durant, with both stars finishing with eight rebounds and seven assists each.

Miami went 14 of 36 from 3-point range but was stonewalled from inside the arc, shooting a subpar 39.6 per cent on 2-point attempts in this latest defeat. The Heat have lost seven straight for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

Jimmy Butler led Miami with 26 points and recent acquisition Terry Rozier had 21 in his fourth game with the Heat.

Miami shot just 35.4 per cent in the first half as the Suns built a 62-49 lead at the break, and its shooting woes continued as Phoenix extended the margin in the third quarter. 

Booker had 12 points and the Suns shot over 68 per cent for the period to open up a commanding 100-74 advantage entering the fourth quarter.

Doc Rivers has agreed to become the next head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Wednesday.

The report comes one day after the Bucks surprisingly fired first-year head coach Adrian Griffin with Milwaukee sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference with a 30-13 record.

Rivers has been serving as an analyst for ESPN after being fired by the Philadelphia 76ers last May.

Rivers ranks ninth all-time in NBA history with 1,097 coaching victories in the regular season and fourth with 111 play-off wins.

He led the Boston Celtics to the NBA title in 2008 and back to the Finals in 2010.

The Bucks fired Mike Budenholzer last offseason after a first-round play-off exit and turned to Griffin, who had been an assistant coach in the NBA since 2008.

Milwaukee, though, has been criticised for its lacklustre defence this season.

The Bucks are allowing 120.5 points per game after giving up 113.3 points a contest in 2022-23. That decline of 7.2 points per game is the second largest in the league this season.

The Milwaukee Bucks have fired first-year head coach Adrian Griffin, multiple media outlets reported Tuesday.

ESPN analyst and veteran NBA coach Doc Rivers has emerged as Milwaukee's primary target as Griffin’s replacement, according to multiple reports.

Assistant Joe Prunty is expected to be the team’s interim coach until a permanent hire is made.

The stunning move comes after Monday’s 122-113 win over the Detroit Pistons. The Bucks have won five of their last six and currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference with a 30-13 record.

Despite the team’s solid record, the Bucks have been criticised for their lacklustre defence this season.

Milwaukee is allowing 120.5 points per game this season after giving up 113.3 per game last season. That decline of 7.2 points per game is the second largest in the league this season.

Despite winning both games, the Bucks surrendered 135 and 113 points in consecutive contests against the lowly Pistons.

Another coaching change is just the latest in a busy stretch for the 2021 NBA champions. The Bucks fired Mike Budenholzer last offseason after a first-round play-off exit. Milwaukee was able to keep Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton in free agency, then swung a blockbuster trade that replaced Jrue Holiday with Damian Lillard.

In October, franchise centrepiece Giannis Antetokounmpo signed a three-year maximum contract extension, pausing speculation about his long-term future in Milwaukee.

The onus now falls on general manager Jon Horst to find a coach who will tighten up the Bucks’ defence and maximise the pairing of Antetokounmpo and Lillard.

Milwaukee’s pool of candidates reportedly centres around accomplished coaches with winning pedigrees, with Rivers topping the list.

Rivers, who joined ESPN last summer after being fired by the Philadelphia 76ers, has 1,097 career wins as a head coach and a .590 record. Rivers coached the 2007-08 Boston Celtics to a championship and reached the Finals again in 2010.

 

 

 

Doc Rivers became the latest coaching casualty after his team underachieved in the playoffs.

The Philadelphia 76ers fired Rivers on Tuesday, two days after the team's Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics, which saw them blow a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Overseeing a talented roster led by 2022-23 MVP Joel Embiid, Rivers had coached the 76ers for three seasons and only the Phoenix Suns (160) and Milwaukee Bucks (155) racked up more regular-season wins than Philadelphia (154) over that time.

Each of those Sixers' seasons, however, ended with an exit in the conference semis.

Sunday's ouster was the second time Philadelphia was eliminated with a Game 7 loss, in addition to 2021, when the top-seeded 76ers lost to the Atlanta Hawks.

Rivers is 6-10 all-time in Game 7s. No other NBA coach has more than five such defeats.

In Sunday's 112-88 loss, Philadelphia was outscored 57-36 in the second half and managed just 10 third-quarter points to tie an NBA playoff record for fewest points in a quarter in the shot clock era.

This came after the Sixers were outscored 24-13 in the fourth quarter of a 95-86 home loss in Game 6.

Rivers joins Mike Budenholzer, the 2019 coach of the year and 2021 title-winner with the Bucks, and Monty Williams, the 2022 coach of the year with the Suns, to be fired in the last two weeks after their teams were knocked out of the playoffs.

Rivers won the NBA title as coach of the Celtics in 2008, and was named coach of the year with the Orlando Magic in 2000.

He also coached the Los Angeles Clippers and has amassed a 1,097-763 (.590) record in the regular season over his 24 seasons as a coach.

Despite his regular-season success, he has not coached a team past the conference semifinals since 2012.

James Harden's "perfect mindset" was lauded by Doc Rivers after the Philadelphia 76ers got the better of the Boston Celtics.

The 76ers nudged themselves ahead in their Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Celtics with a 119-115 win on Monday.

Philadelphia were without talisman and NBA MVP candidate Joel Embiid, who was ruled out of Game 1 due to a sprained ankle.

Yet Harden stepped up, scoring 45 points, matching his playoff career-high.

"I thought that he had just the perfect mindset tonight," 76ers coach Rivers said of Harden.

"He really did. I'm so happy for him because it just tells you what he can do on given nights.

"The guy is a Hall of Famer, and all you hear is the other stuff about him, and he was fantastic."

Harden finished with 17-for-30 from the field and 7-for-14 three-pointers.

"I haven't felt one of those zones in a minute," Harden said. "You know what I mean? Just to be aggressive and shoot the basketball and do what I want.

"That felt really good. I'm capable of doing it, so it felt good. It felt good to make those shots, to give ourselves a chance."

Harden, though, does not feel he needs to prove himself all over again – he just wants to help the Sixers win.

"I don't need to make a statement," Harden added. "My coaches, my team-mates, what they expect me to do all throughout the course of the year was be a facilitator and get Joel the basketball and score when necessary. Joel wasn't here tonight, you know what I mean? And, we knew that going into this series.

"Now it's like, 'All right, open the floor. James, you be aggressive.' And tonight, I was aggressive. So, it's not that I'm not capable of doing it, this is my role for this team. Now, if you want me to do [what I did] tonight, then I can do that as well.

"I don't think a lot of players can do that. So yeah, I appreciate that."

For Harden's team-mate P.J. Tucker, Monday's win was evidence the Sixers are not wholly reliant on star player Embiid.

"I think we take pride in playing without the big fella," Tucker said. "As good as he is, I think it gives others opportunities to step up and play.

"Everybody took a little step up with him out. It's like a pride thing for us."

The Philadelphia 76ers are still not declaring Joel Embiid will be available for Game 1 of their Conference Semifinals starting on Monday due to a sprained right knee.

Embiid missed Game 4 on Saturday as the 76ers completed a 4-0 sweep of the Brooklyn Nets, offering the MVP candidate an opportunity for rest ahead of their next series against either the Boston Celtics or the Atlanta Hawks.

The 76ers center is yet to practice ahead of Game 1 and head coach Doc Rivers said he was undergoing doctor's examination on Thursday.

"I'm just going to wait," Rivers told reporters after Thursday's team practice. "They'll call me later and we'll see where he's at."

Embiid appeared banged up during Game 3 against the Nets, taking a series of falls, before missing Game 4 which the 76ers won 96-88.

Trae Young's game-winning three-pointer clinched Atlanta's 119-117 win on Tuesday, extending the Hawks-Celtics series to a sixth game, allowing the 76ers more time to recover after their sweep.

That Conference Semifinals series would have started on Saturday if it had concluded on Tuesday, with Rivers offering an insight into Embiid's status when asked about that factor.

"If we played on Saturday, I don't know how realistic it would have been, so that's a good thing," Rivers said.

The 76ers went 11-5 in Embiid's absence during the regular season, providing Rivers hope that they could triumph without him.

"Just look at our record all year," Rivers said. "Look at our record last year and the year before. Each year we’ve gotten better when guys are injured.

"Last year we were better. This year, we were way better. That's what gives me confidence."

Embiid averaged a league-high 33.1 points across 66 games in the regular season but was down at 20.0 points during the first round series.

He also averaged 10.2 rebounds and matched a career-high 4.2 assists per game during the regular season.

The Philadelphia 76ers will need Joel Embiid back for the Eastern Conference semi-finals, despite their Game 4 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

That is according to Tyrese Maxey, who labelled team-mate Embiid as a "leader", though the Sixers secured a 4-0 series sweep of the Nets without him on Saturday.

Embiid led the league for points per game in the regular season (33.1), but suffered a knee sprain in Game 3 against Brooklyn.

While a series comeback still seemed unlikely, the Nets had some hope on Saturday when they led by eight at half-time at Barclays Center, only for the Sixers to fight back and take the game 96-88.

Philadelphia will face either the Boston Celtics or Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semis, which the Celtics lead 2-1 ahead of Game 4 on Sunday, and Maxey hopes Embiid can be back in time.

"It starts with Joel," the Sixers guard said. "He's the leader of this team and for him, he takes the guys before the game and he told us good luck and we appreciate him for that. And we need him to get healthy."

Tobias Harris top-scored with 25 on Saturday, while James Harden had an impressive outing with 17 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, and he echoed Maxey's comments.

"Obviously, today was big for us, so we can get [the] big fella healthy," Harden said. "That's priority number one."

Coach Doc Rivers had explained the situation with Embiid before the game, but clarified further afterwards, suggesting the Cameroonian perhaps has a "50 per cent" chance of making it for the next round.

"I just don't know," he said. "I would say, right now, it's probably the same percentage I said before the game... probably 50 per cent, at best."

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers is unsure when Joel Embiid will return from injury after a knee sprain sidelined the MVP favourite for Game 4 against the Brooklyn Nets.

It was announced on Friday that Embiid had suffered the injury in Thursday's Game 3 win over the Nets – the 76ers' third straight victory in the series.

Embiid has sustained injuries during several previous postseason campaigns, including sitting out two games as the 76ers were beaten by the Miami Heat in last year's Eastern Conference semifinals.

An ESPN report suggested Embiid could return to the court as early as next week, but Rivers was unwilling to put a timeframe on the center's recovery on Saturday.

"This is another obstacle in the story that we're going to write this year, and we're going to be okay. It may take a minute, but this is just part of it," Rivers said.

"He's human, and goodness, this happens again. Let's win, let's get him back on the floor and let's keep on our own journey."

Asked whether Embiid could return during this series if Brooklyn were to force a Game 5, Rivers added: "I don't know. I can't answer that, but I'm not sure.

"From my understanding, they checked his knee out right after the game because he was complaining about some soreness behind the knee, which is always a scary thing to hear about with players. 

"There was swelling already, which is way too early, so we did the MRI. As a coach, I hate that word. I hate those three letters, because it never comes out well. 

"It just feels like that, whenever they tell a coach you're going to get an MRI, it doesn't turn out well most of the time, and this time it did not."

Doc Rivers' "cursing" had the desire effect as the Philadelphia 76ers stepped it up in the second half to take a 2-0 lead over the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference playoff series.

The Nets led Game 2 at Wells Fargo Center on Monday by five points at half-time and Rivers decided just over a minute into the third quarter it was time for him to unleash some verbal volleys.

Sixers head coach Rivers' intervention sparked his side into life and they went on to win 96-84.

Tyrese Maxey top scored with 33 points, including six three-pointers, while Joel Embiid finished with 20 points, 19 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks.

Tobias Harris also weighed in with 20 points and 12 rebounds as Philadelphia took command of the first-round series before travelling to New York for Game 3 on Thursday.

Asked what Rivers said during a huddle early in the third quarter, James Harden said: "Cursing us out. That's it. Just cursing us out.

"The first possession, we didn't run a play that he drew up, for whatever reason. But we got it right."

Rivers felt the Sixers made life difficult for themselves before raising their game to dominate the second half.

"We got guys to the right space," Rivers said. "Joel was patient. James was patient. We moved the ball, we got every shot we wanted.

"That was a hard game, because we got outside of ourselves in the first half. I thought we were forcing it. We were trying, nothing selfish, but we're trying to score all of us, instead of being there giving you the answers with their traps. Trust your stuff, trust your spacing, move the ball and the right guys are going to end up with the ball.

"And if we do it enough, eventually, Joel, you're gonna get one-on-ones, and then you're going to dominate the game. And I thought we did that in the second half."

Cam Johnson led the Nets with 28 points but they were unable to level the series.

James Harden called the "perfect game" according to Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers after leading them to a 121-102 win over the Brooklyn Nets in Game 1 of their playoffs first round series.

Harden starred against his former franchise, scoring 23 points on seven-of-13 three-point shooting with 13 assists.

The Nets put attention into MVP candidate Joel Embiid throughout, restricting him to 26 points, but the 76ers stepped up elsewhere, making a franchise-record 21 three-pointers in a playoff game.

"James, I thought that was one of his best games as a 'catcher' where he was calling the perfect game," Rivers told reporters about Harden.

"He's in shape, he's healthy. He's confident in how we play. Last year, even when he was playing, he was like 'am I doing the right thing here?'. There was a lot of good there."

Rivers pointed out that the 76ers also generated 19 more shots than the Nets (89-70), while Harden acknowledged the Nets' tactics to limit Embiid's tactics but hailed his side's shooting, going at 48.8 per cent from beyond the arc. Fifteen of the 76ers' 21 triples were uncontested.

"I mean, he's the MVP," Harden said of Embiid. "So it's like, would you rather him score 40, or live with us making shots? Either way, it's fine. We'll be ready either way."

Embiid's 26 points came on seven-of-15 field-goal shooting with five rebounds, three assists and two blocks. The MVP contender was full of praise for Harden's impact.

"He's the best playmaker in the league, by far," Embiid said. "But we don't want him settling. I don't want him to fall in love with just that. We need him to be aggressive, and he was today.

"I think that's the key - not just being a playmaker, just being aggressive, going downhill and creating for himself and everyone else."

Page 1 of 7
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.