CAMDEN, N.J. - It's a familiar situation in an unfamiliar part of the season.
The Sixers will be without Joel Embiid for the ninth straight game on Saturday. The difference this time is, it is Game 1 of the playoffs.
Embiid officially was ruled out for the first-round opener against the Heat because of the concussion and orbital bone fracture he suffered March 28 in a collision with Markelle Fultz.
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The third-seeded Sixers (52-30) won half of their current 16-game win streak minus their key big man. It is uncertain when he will return in their quest to capture the best-of-seven series in this round. Embiid did individual non-contact work during Friday's practice. He was going through shooting drills in a mask after it concluded.
"We prepare the way we've been preparing the last [eight] or so games without Jo," Ben Simmons said Friday. "We've been playing well as a team. Stick with our defense and stick with our offense."
The Sixers have had time to implement a faster, three-point-heavy style of play in Embiid's absence. Brett Brown said veteran Amir Johnson once again will get the start.
The Sixers already know how to win individual games without Embiid. Now they have to do it four times against the Heat, including centers Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo. The team has been emphasizing defensive rebounding and adopting a "tag-team mentality," as JJ Redick described it, against bigs on the offensive glass.
"They are a low-post presence," Brown said. "They are tremendous rim protectors, which really gets into maybe more instruction or as much instruction to the perimeter people. You better go to dunk or you better come to jump stops and find perimeter shooters because anything and not purposeful is very difficult with those two sort of bodies and mentalities. It's going to be interesting to see how they sub their team."
The Sixers have faced the Heat before without Embiid. They held on for a 104-102 victory at the Wells Fargo Center on Feb. 14. Simmons recorded an 18-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist triple-double while James Johnson led the Heat with 22 points off the bench. Dwyane Wade missed a game-winning three at the buzzer.
The Sixers and Heat split the regular-season series, 2-2 (see story).
"We've been without Joel for a little while now," Ersan Ilyasova said. "Obviously he's one of the guys who can create a lot of stuff for us. We have to cover for him … play smart basketball, move the ball and play unselfish."