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Nick Nurse Explains Logic Behind Joel Embiid’s Playing Time vs. Knicks

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Sunday’s matchup between the Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Knicks called for a long shift from the Sixers’ superstar center, Joel Embiid.

After Embiid put together a 50-point outing in Game 3, helping the Sixers pick up their first win of the 2024 NBA Playoffs, the Sixers once again relied on their MVP-winning big man to steer them to another victory, tying the series up before heading to Madison Square Garden for Game 5.

Through the first half of action, Embiid checked in for 20 minutes, nearly matching the same amount of playing time as his co-star, Tyrese Maxey. The two totaled 27 points, helping their team garner a 49-47 lead at halftime.

While the Sixers possessed a small lead going into the second half, the flow of the game was uncomfortable when Embiid was off the floor.

Paul Reed, the veteran backup center, collected four minutes of playing time in the first half. The young center was a minus-six on the floor, as the Knicks confidently attacked him on the offensive end.

Reed’s leash was short, and the Sixers felt more comfortable offering a busy second half for Joel Embiid.

“He was feeling good and wanted to go,” Sixers head coach, Nick Nurse, said of Embiid after Game 4, regarding his playing time.

In the final 24 minutes, Embiid played every second. As dominant as he was during Game 3, the Sixers’ big man did not have it going on the back-half of Game 4. Eight of Embiid’s 13 points came from the charity stripe, where he feasted.

From the field, Embiid made just two of his seven shots. All things considered, Embiid was understandably fatigued in the second half, which raised questions about his playing time after the matchup.

“These games are all a must win and we didn’t have a very good stretch when he was out in the first half,” Nick Nurse explained. “We were willing to continue on.”

There’s no telling what would’ve happened if Embiid took a quick breather in the second half. Taking the big man out would’ve been just as much as a gamble as leaving him in.

Unfortunately, Nick Nurse’s decision didn’t pay off for the Sixers. The Knicks outscored the Sixers 50-43 during the second half. When it was all said and done, New York defeated the Sixers 97-92, advancing to 3-1 in the series.

Nurse, Embiid, and the Sixers are now facing elimination heading into Game 5 on Tuesday.

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