Joel Embiid, aka The Phantom of the Process, is a master at nudging opponents in the paint and on social media. So, when the big man posted a photo of Stringer Bell from “The Wire” – an indication that his Sixers were “back up” – it had people talking.
Had Embiid’s triumphant return from a concussion breathed new life into their halted championship operation? Maybe. He scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 36 minutes while wearing a protective mask to cover his broken face.
He gutted every possession out, begging the coaching staff at to keep him in Game 3, and helped lead the Sixers to a 99-79 victory. After the game, a tired Embiid warned against reading too much into his tweet.
“We’re down 2-1 so we got a long way to go,” Embiid told reporters. “Like I said, Twitter has nothing to do with basketball. That’s just me, my personality, having fun. It doesn’t matter if the circumstances are good or bad, I’m always going to try and have fun. We’re not back up. That’s not even close. We are down 2-1. We can’t go down 3-1 so we really need this game on Sunday.”
The Sixers will hold a film session at their training complex in Camden, New Jersey on Saturday and then return to the court for Game 4 on Sunday. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia.
“We are not taking any deep breaths or exhaling,” Danny Green said. “We know we have to win another game so we have to stay locked in and focused, taking it one game at a time, hopefully, we can keep that momentum and have another decent shooting night on Sunday.”
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‘The Phantom of the Process’ Returns
Embiid famously earned the nickname “The Phantom of the Process” after suffering an orbital fracture in 2018. That was the first time be busted out a protective mask in a playoff series.
Four years later, Embiid is dealing with a similar injury but he doesn’t want pity. It is what it is. He has no problem playing through the pain if it can help the Sixers win a title.
“Four years ago, I really complained about it,” Embiid said. “It’s a little different this year because I don’t have to wear goggles, those were really annoying. When there was a reflection of the lights it was still bothering me. But this time around, you know, it’s still a big adjustment but like I said, it starts on defense and on defense I don’t really need to see everything. Obviously on offense you really need to be able to see to try and knock down shots but it’s fine.”
The All-Star center cleared the concussion protocol on Thursday, but he needed to go through pre-game warmups to see how he felt. Embiid ran out of the tunnel about 40 minutes prior to the start of Game 3 and got some shots up. He felt good enough to give it a go.
“It was really about just seeing the reaction,” Embiid said, “and if there was going to be any sort of reaction or if I was going to have any sort of symptoms from the concussion, but it was fine.”
No Minutes Restriction, Playing Decoy
Head coach Doc Rivers told reporters he would probably put Embiid on a minutes restriction and ease him back into the rotation. Nope. The MVP candidate jumped right back into the starting five and endured 36 hard minutes against a physical Miami Heat team.
Embiid was sluggish at times – especially when catching the ball in the paint on the offensive end – but he gave everything he had to the basketball gods. His presence on defense turned Heat center Bam Adebayo (9 points, 3 rebounds) into a non-factor.
“I didn’t think I had a lot of energy,” Embiid said. “Honestly, I was really just trying to get through it and kind of just use my presence out there as a decoy. I feel like what I pride myself on is really defensively, and I feel like that’s where my presence is really felt on the defensive end, so that’s really where I thought playing I could have a huge impact.”