The Philadelphia 76ers will kick off their series with the Miami Heat without the services of Joel Embiid — a situation many feel could have been avoided if Doc Rivers hadn’t kept the star big man in the game during a blowout.
Embiid suffered a concussion and fractured orbital bone in his left eye in the Sixers’ series-clinching win against Toronto — a game in which Philadelphia was up 20-plus points down the stretch. He’s expected to miss at least the first two games of the series against the Heat.
Sixers veteran Danny Green discussed the injury to Embiid on his podcast “Inside The Green Room” and appeared to take a veiled shot at Rivers for not “pulling the plug” earlier with his starters.
“We saw him on the plane after the game and he was holding his head – it seemed pretty severe,” Green said. “We didn’t know (how bad it was), there were no stitches, I saw a little scratch. But when it happened, he kind of wanted to go back in the game. We’re like, ‘Joel, you can’t go back in the game. We subbed you out and challenged the replay.’ Mind you, we probably should’ve pulled the plug a little earlier. But I mean, it is what it is.”
Rivers previously defended his decision to leave his starters in during the crucial, series-clinching matchup.
“After Joel made the shot and did the airplane [the prior possession], if you watch the game, I turned and said, ‘I’m calling a timeout on the next possession.’ I’m not upset that he was in. You can make that a big deal if you want. But just go look at every team, and every game, and their guys are in until about the four-, three-minute mark. That’s what it is.”
Embiid Was in Bad Shape After Besting Raptors
Green painted a pretty ugly picture of what Embiid was dealing with after the game on the plane and in the locker room.
“We were waiting for Nick (Nurse) to throw his subs in first. It is what it is, like I said. He came out, it seemed like the adrenaline, he still wanted to play. But once I think it set in and after the game, you could see in the locker room he was holding his head a lot,” Green said. “He was kind of a little leery, his body seemed a little weary. On the plane, he was under the covers — usually they play cards. On the bus, he kind of just laid down, covered his face, I think the lights were getting to him.”
Embiid averaged 26.2 points and 11.3 rebounds in the first round against the Raptors and things are only going to get tougher against a stingy Heat squad. Miami was able to stifle Trae Young and the Hawks, winning their first-round series 4-1, holding Atlanta under 100 points in three of the five games.
Sixers Start Veteran DeAndre Jordan in Game 1
With Embiid on the shelf, the Sixers turned to DeAndre Jordan to start Game 1. Jordan signed with Philly midway through the year after being let go by the Los Angeles Lakers.
While Jordan got the starting nod, Rivers was clear that it would be a committee of Jordan, Paul Millsap, Charles Bassey and Paul Reed replacing their MVP candidate.
“We may need all four guys, even if it’s to burn minutes,” Rivers said. “The one thing Miami is, if they’re nothing else, they’re clever. They’re foul magnets. That’s a concern for us. Two reasons: They shoot free throws well, so we don’t want to play the whole series in the penalty. And No. 2, getting some of our guys in foul trouble.”
Game 2 is scheduled for Wednesday and Embiid could return as early as Friday when the series shifts back to Philadelphia.