Sixers’ Joel Embiid questionable for Game 1 vs. Celtics; James Harden has an aggressive mindset

As predicted by head coach Doc Rivers, the Sixers listed Joel Embiid as questionable on Sunday ahead of Monday night’s second-round playoff opener against the Celtics.

Boston’s Danilo Gallinari (ACL repair left knee) was the only other player on the injury report before Game 1 of Sixers-Celtics at TD Garden.

On a positive note for the Sixers, Embiid took jumpers Sunday during the post-practice window open to reporters for the first time this week. James Harden passed to the Sixers’ six-time All-Star, who suffered a sprained right knee during the team’s Game 3 win over the Nets last Thursday.

“He did a little bit more,” Rivers said. “Not much. He wasn’t running or anything – just shooting and stuff. So it’s better, yeah. He’s progressing.”

Asked about the Sixers’ level of optimism with Embiid, Rivers gave a philosophical answer.

“There’s been optimism all along, but there’s also realism,” he said with a laugh. “You have to be realistic. I just don’t know either. Still questionable, but he’s getting better every day. This is good for us.”

Harden caught a quarterback-style long pass from Embiid before sitting down to talk to reporters.

He did not dwell on the subject of his own health.

“I’m good,” Harden said of the left Achilles that caused him to miss four games in late March. “That’s not even a problem.”

This season’s NBA assists leader spoke as if he expected to be without Embiid in Game 1.

“…For me, this whole year has been James Harden’s playmaking role — the sacrifice of not really scoring and all that good stuff,” Harden said. “And now it’s like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to turn on the switch and be a little more aggressive,’ not just with scoring the basketball, but with getting into the paint and generating really good shots for our team.” This is what will help us.

“All that said, I’m just going out there, reading the game of the basketball and playing my basketball instinct. I just go out there and hope.”

Although the Sixers went 0-2 in Boston during the regular season, Harden performed well, totaling 61 points on 17-for-28 shooting, 18 assists and four turnovers.

As for Tyrese Maxey’s troubles against the Celtics, which included a 3-for-14 game on Feb. 8, Harden doesn’t sound concerned.

“Just have that confidence,” he said. “I think all of us have to go in there with an incredible amount of confidence to go out there and want to take Game 1. Not just Tyrese, I think our whole team has to have that grit to go in there and have that confidence that we’re winning Game 1.

“I’m sure Tyreese has put in the effort. He works extremely hard, so whether it’s his shot or whether it’s going to the rim, I’m confident they’re going to come in.”

After Embiid finished making his jumpers, he turned to Harden for catch-and-shoot threes.

It remains uncertain when this will happen next in a given game.

“We’ve been communicating a lot, especially the last few days, as far as how he’s feeling and things like that,” Harden said. “I think today was his first shooting. I mean it’s up to Joel. It’s up to him when his body feels like it’s ready to come back — or, if his body doesn’t feel quite 100 percent, he (may) still be like, ‘I’m still going to go out there and hoop and try to understand it. That’s all for him. I don’t think anyone in the world could have that mindset except Joel Embiid.

“Obviously we know the value he brings to our team and what he does all year. So when he’s ready to come back and play – when he feels he’s ready – obviously we’re waiting for him. But until then, we have to go out there and try to win a basketball game – one game at a time. That’s our mindset as a team.”

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