TORONTO -- Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid says the tendinitis in his left knee is still bothersome, but he's going to increase his workload in the second round against the Toronto Raptors regardless.
"It's still not there. It's still trying to get better," Embiid said at shootaround Saturday in advance of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the favored Raptors. "But that's an issue that's going to be there at least all playoffs until I actually get some real time to get some rest and work on myself. ...
"But, we did a good job managing it. Obviously I only averaged about 24 minutes last series, so this one I'm definitely going to need way more than that."
Embiid averaged 24.8 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.8 blocks in Philadelphia's 4-1 first-round win over the Brooklyn Nets in just 24.8 minutes per game.
The same knee issue that caused him to miss 14 of the Sixers' 24 games after the All-Star break kept him out of Game 3 against the Nets.
"It's hard because I'm known for playing through anything and pushing, pushing it," Embiid said. "And in some situations like Game 3, I couldn't go because it was too much. But like I said, I just got to keep managing it and see how I feel and then go from there."
The good news for Sixers fans is Embiid is not listed on the injury report for the series opener in Toronto. Sixers forward Mike Scott -- the hero of Game 4 in Brooklyn -- is out with a heel contusion and plantar fasciitis in his right foot and was in a walking boot Saturday. With Scott out of the lineup, Sixers coach Brett Brown said he was considering finding some minutes for rookie Zhaire Smith.
Other than that, Philadelphia enters the series healthy in body and spirit, yet cognizant of the task at hand. The Raptors are no pushovers, having won the season series 3-1 and coming off an impressive first-round showing of their own against Orlando.
"We have confidence, otherwise we wouldn't be at this stage of the season," said JJ Redick. "We feel like Toronto is as good as anybody in the NBA and I feel like we can be as good as anybody in the NBA."
Toronto has individuals on its team recognized before as the best the league has to offer -- a former Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in Kawhi Leonard; another DPOY in Marc Gasol; a perennial All-Star in Kyle Lowry; not to mention defensive threats like Danny Green and Pascal Siakam.
"That's a team that causes a lot of turnovers," Embiid said. "In the past, they've turned us over a lot -- me, Ben (Simmons). So, we just got to be aggressive but at the same time, go through the pace of the game without forcing anything. ... And then they double-team me a lot, so I can't wait to see what they're going to do tonight. Even with Marc Gasol, if they're going to send a double-team. But Marc is a great player, a great defender, so it's going to be a tough series."
In the four regular-season games against the Raptors, Embiid had 13 turnovers and Simmons had a whopping 25, with 24 of them coming in the three games that Leonard played.
"He guarded me in 2015 for most of that seven-game series in the first round when I played for the Clippers," Redick said of Leonard. "And he's one of the, I think, one of the all-time sort of elite wing defenders."
Brown called the Raptors "a hell of a defensive team" and wants to find space for Simmons to operate freely on the court because "we can't have him play in a crowd."
"I feel like if you were to make me say what's most important on offense, I'd say turnovers," Brown said. "What's most important on defense? We have to get back and play transition defense. And those have to be the starting point."
Saturday's Game 1 will be Philadelphia's starting point to try to avenge last season's second-round loss to the Boston Celtics and reach a new height for this group.
If the No. 3-seeded Sixers pull it off, they'll have earned it, having to get past the No. 2-seeded Raptors to do so.
"When you look at it, you try to find a weakness and it's difficult," Brown said of Toronto. "It's really difficult."