Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler is not too happy about the injury that will keep Philadelphia 76ers MVP candidate Joel Embiid sidelined for at least the start of their playoff series.
Embiid suffered a concussion and fractured orbital bone in his left eye in the Sixers’ series-clinching win against Toronto. He’s expected to miss at least the first two games of the series against the Heat.
Butler is one of the ultimate competitors in the league and wants to face the Sixers at full strength. On top of that, Butler and Embiid have a friendship that dates back to their days in Philadelphia together.
“I feel bad for my guy,” Butler told reporters over the weekend. “I think I speak for everybody that’s a part of this team, we want Jo to play. We want to go up against them at full strength and prove that we can hang with anybody and we can beat anybody.”
It’s fair to say the Sixers are far from full strength without their big man in the middle. 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.
Sixers Expected to Rely on Multiple Players to Fill Void
With Embiid on the shelf, the Sixers need to get creative in an attempt to hold down the fort while he’s out. The options include DeAndre Jordan, Paul Millsap, Charles Bassey and Paul Reed.
“We may need all four guys, even if it’s to burn minutes,” Sixers coach Doc 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.
“Bam [Adebayo] does a great job of that, Jimmy Butler may be the best at it in the series now without Joel, and Kyle Lowry does it. We just have to be very smart in how we plan our bigs.”
Sixers Large Underdog in Series Against Heat
The Sixers enter their series with the Heat as healthy underdogs, coming in at +325 to win the series, per The Action Network. That number has ballooned since the Embiid injury news came out.
The Sixers still have some firepower in former MVP James Harden, Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey. Rivers expects his team to rise to the occasion against the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
“We need [Embiid] back at some point, but we don’t know when and we got to hold the fort,” Rivers said. “This is why we pay everybody, and this team has a great belief system. We’ve had a lot of stuff thrown at us this year with guys out; maybe this is another test in that.
“We’re going nowhere, I can tell you that. This team will be ready when we get to Miami.”
The Sixers are 7.5-point underdogs for their first matchup against the Heat in Miami on Monday.