Sixers Coach Reveals Plan for Joel Embiid After Injury Scare in Game 1 Loss

Sixers center Joel Embiid

Getty Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers takes a moment before game one of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs against the New York Knicks.

Philadelphia 76ers coach Nick Nurse explicitly said the plan is for Joel Embiid to push through despite his injury scare in their 111-104 loss to the New York Knicks in Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs opening round.

“I don’t think so,” Nurse told reporters when asked if they considered shutting Embiid down. “He really is a warrior, and he’s battling. I think he absolutely wants to play.”

Embiid led all scorers in the first half with 18 points as he showed a different verve since his return from a knee injury. Then he grimaced in pain as the Sixers collectively held their breath after Embiid landed awkwardly following a jaw-dropping alley-oop dunk off the backboard.

Embiid left the final 2:37 of the first half with questions about his availability hanging over the Sixers’ heads.

“I knew when I went in at halftime that they were checking him out,” Nurse said. “And that he was up and moving. And they did say we are seeing. They didn’t rule him out yet. They just took him all the way to the end there to get him ruled back in.”

While Embiid returned in the second half, he was never the same again.

The reigning MVP lumbered to 11 points on 2 of 11 shooting in the second half as the Knicks took a 1-0 series lead. He finished with 29 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals in 37 minutes.

The Sixers were plus-14 with Embiid on the court. They would need the first-half version of Embiid before the brief injury scare if they are to survive the gritty Knicks.

“Nothing with Joel surprises me now,” Tyrese Maxey told reporters. “He’s always a fighter. He’s always going to try and give it his all for his team. So if he thinks he can go, he’ll for sure be out there.”

Tyrese Maxey’s Hell of a 2nd Half

Despite the Game 1 loss, a ray of hope emerged with Maxey leading all scorers with 33 points.

Maxey’s emergence as the Sixers’ lead guard has helped the team overcome Embiid’s health concerns this season to punch a playoff ticket.

His first playoff game as the lead guard was encouraging for Nurse.

“He’s trying to find his way. I think he was really awesome in the second half.  It’s his first playoff game as a lead point guard, I think he played a hell of a game,” Nurse said of Maxey.

Maxey scored a quiet 12 points on 5 of 14 shooting in the first half as the Sixers were minus-12 when he was on the floor. Then he settled in as the game went along. He exploded for 21 points on a 9 of 12 shooting in the second half as the Sixers were up by eight points in Maxey’s minutes.

Nick Nurse’s Gamble Backfires

The Sixers gamble to let Jalen Brunson‘s supporting cast backfired as Josh Hart, Miles McBride and Bojan Bogdanovic combined to shoot 12 3-pointers.

McBride carried the Knicks in the second half when the Sixers made their comeback. Hart finished them off with three clutch 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

“We were sitting in a zone for a lot of it. But our zone shifts — obviously you are trying to guard certain guys,” Nurse said. “Give them credit. I think we’re probably okay with some of those shots, but they hit them. Give them credit for stepping into them and hitting them.”