Buddy Hield

Nurse asks Hield to stay ready after rough start to his 1st playoffs 

Hield didn't play in the second half of the Sixers' Game 3 win over the Knicks.

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With yet another exceedingly dramatic playoff night behind them, the Sixers took a breath Friday.

Thanks in large part to Joel Embiid’s 50-point evening (with a recent Bell’s palsy diagnosis), the Sixers won Game 3 of their first-round playoff matchup with the Knicks. They'll try to knot the series up Sunday afternoon.

Looking ahead, some aspects of the Sixers’ game plan are surely here to stay, like feeding Embiid the ball in a variety of areas and using Kelly Oubre Jr. often against Jalen Brunson. 

Other decisions will be based more on gut feel. For instance, Sixers head coach Nick Nurse pushed the right button Thursday in playing Cameron Payne as his lone second-unit ball handler, receiving 11 important points from the 29-year-old lefty.

Nurse also subbed Buddy Hield out late in the first quarter shortly after he missed a corner three-pointer and a layup. Hield did not appear again and is 1 for 7 from the field (0 for 4 from three-point range) through his first three career playoff games. 

“I think that is obviously not easy for him,” Nurse said Friday. “As I’ve said … I really like him. He loves to play, it’s killing him not to be out there, etc. And that is the conversation. I’ve got to say to him, ‘Listen, my job is to make the decisions that are best for the team.’ 

“Some nights, some series, whatever, it doesn’t work out for certain guys. He’s not alone there. And I needed a spark from somebody, and we got it. Now, next game’s a new day. And you never know how things are going to roll, so you have to stay ready.”

Hield endured a couple of cold patches after being traded to the Sixers, but he finished right around his typical outside shooting numbers across 32 regular-season outings — 38.9 percent from long distance on 6.6 attempts per game. 

As an ironman sort of player, Hield isn’t used to any uncertainty about whether he’ll be in his team’s rotation. 

“There’s a little bit different prep, I would say. You’ve just kind of got to be ready,” Nurse said. “I always say, ‘Roll out of bed and make a shot.’ If you’re coming off the bench, you’ve got to somehow get yourself, your hands, your feet, and your mind ready to do it and understand that the window may be short.”

However Nurse handles his bench in Game 4, he'll hope for better results while Embiid sits. 

The Sixers went 31-8 this regular season with Embiid and 16-27 without him. The on-off disparity has been similarly extreme so far vs. the Knicks. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Sixers have a plus-11.3 net rating during Embiid’s minutes and a minus-40.3 net rating during his time on the bench.

Much like Payne, Hield understands the Sixers revolve around Embiid but also need their role players to cash in on open jumpers.

We’ll see when the next one is available for Hield. 

“When the opportunity comes, you’ve got to fire away,” Hield said on April 13 after an extended post-practice workout with Sixers assistant coach Rico Hines. “You see me out there working on quick opportunities, because you know that opportunities … I wouldn’t say they’re limited. You have Joel, Tyrese (Maxey), Tobias (Harris), Kelly (Oubre Jr.).

“You’ve got to make the right play and you’ve just got to trust it. That's what the game brings to you sometimes. Every opportunity you get, you’ve got to take advantage of it.”

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