Doc Rivers chose to give his weary 76ers players a break from practice Wednesday. With the task ahead of them on Thursday night, they’ll need all the energy they can muster.

Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals with the Miami Heat awaits at the Wells Fargo Center. A loss would end the Sixers’ season. A victory would force a Game 7 on Sunday in Miami. For his part, Rivers says he is confident. The Sixers took 20- and eight-point victories in Games 3 and 4 on their home court.

“Up to this point, no one has won on the road,” Rivers said. “So, yeah, I should have a lot of confidence going into the game.”

A battered Joel Embiid struggled through a 17-point effort in Game 5 in Miami, but David Murphy points out that the big man is only human.

— Inquirer Sports Staff, @phillysport

Can the Sixers survive and send the series back to Miami? Tell us your thoughts at

Early Birds

Miles Sanders recorded a career-best 5.5 yards per carry last season despite being hampered by several injuries. The running back wound up missing five Eagles games in a season in which he failed to score a touchdown.

Now Sanders is entering the final year of his rookie contract with the Eagles, but he chooses to keep the focus on his staying healthy. Sanders says he isn’t worried about signing a contract extension in the immediate future.

Extra Innings

Rhys Hoskins’ luck is starting to turn around. He entered the Seattle series on Monday ranking in the 97th percentile of all hitters in average exit velocity (93.5 mph) and the 89th percentile in hard-hit rate (51.6%). Yet he was batting .189 and slugging .347, 152nd and 119th, respectively, among 171 hitters with at least 80 plate appearances. But he tormented the Mariners, going 6-for-13 with a home run in each of the three games, including a grand slam in the Phillies’ 4-2 victory Wednesday. A hot Hoskins may be the best thing for the Phillies with the ace trio of Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urías awaiting them this weekend at Dodger Stadium.

Matt Vierling’s slow start got him a demotion to triple-A Lehigh as the Phillies welcome back Zack Wheeler.

Next: The Phillies open a four-game series in Los Angeles at 10:10 p.m. Thursday (NBCSP). Wheeler (1-3, 4.10 ERA) will start against Dodgers left-hander Tyler Anderson (3-0, 2.78).

Off the Dribble

Joel Embiid lost the MVP award to Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic for a second straight year, but he’s choosing not to focus on that defeat. After a crushing 120-85 loss to Miami at FTX Arena, he wasn’t in the mood to dig deep into the MVP debate.

The Sixers center does have questions, though. Chief among them: What else can I do?

“I’m not mad,” Embiid said. “That’s two years in a row I put myself in that position. It didn’t happen. It’s almost like, at this point, it’s whatever. Whatever happens, happens.

Next: It’s do or die for the Sixers in Game 6 against the Heat at 7 p.m. Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center (ESPN).

On the Fly

Claude Giroux, remember him? The former Flyers captain and the franchise’s second-all-time leading scorer has been gone almost two months since being traded to the Florida Panthers just before the deadline.

Giana Han caught up with “G” in Washington after Game 4 of the Panthers’ best-of-seven series with the Capitals to find out how Giroux is liking his new home, adapting to a new role with the Panthers, and how he feels being back in the Stanley Cup playoff mix.

Worth a Look

We compiled today’s newsletter using reporting from David Murphy, Josh Tolentino, Keith Pompey, Gina Mizell, Giana Han, Joey Piatt, Mike Sielski, and Frank Fitzpatrick.