The big story for the Philadelphia 76ers heading into the Eastern Conference semifinals is the status of MVP finalist Joel Embiid. After taking a blow to the face from Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, Embiid suffered a fractured orbital bone and a mild concussion. The All-Star center did not travel with the team for the series against the Miami Heat that started May 2, but there remains hope he can take the floor at some point in this series.
Before the action tipped off in Game 1, Yahoo Sports insider Chris Haynes provided an update on the situation. He reported Embiid will likely wear a protective mask, and the team remains optimistic he can return when these teams travel to Philly for games 3 and 4.
“Sources have told me that the Sixers are already planning for a situation where Joel Embiid, when he returns, will have to wear some form of protective gear over his face,” Haynes said. “But, they’re optimistic and they’re hopeful that he could possibly return when the series shifts to Philadelphia.”
Embiid has made it clear on multiple occasions that he will not be stopped in his pursuit of an NBA championship. He will do whatever it takes to get back on the floor as soon as possible. Wearing a mask did not deter him before, leaving the door open for him to come back once he clears concussion protocol.
Embiid Already Back to Work
Since the initial news of the injury came out, all of the updates have been positive.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers gave another promising update during his media availability on May 3. While he doesn’t want to get people’s hopes up, he said Embiid has been on the floor getting work in. There is still no set timetable for his potential return, and the team is operating with extreme caution.
Even with the timetable unclear, the fact that Embiid is expected to be on the floor in some capacity is a positive sign for the Sixers and their fans.
Sixers Greatly Missing Embiid’s Presence
It’s not surprising the Sixers missed Embiid in a huge way during their Game 1 loss. As the leader and focal point on both ends, filling the void he leaves is a big ask for the rest of the roster. Rivers experimented at center but finds himself in a tough spot.
One good thing that came about Embiid’s absence is the success of small-ball lineups. Paul Reed did well in his backup minutes, and Tobias Harris even held his own for short stretches at center. The only issue was the Heat quickly capitalized on the lack of size on the floor.
Heat center Bam Adebayo had his way against the Sixers’ smaller lineups. Rivers tried to give DeAndre Jordan minutes to have some size, but the veteran big man struggled greatly.
The Sixers stuck around for most of Game 1 but fell apart in the second half. With Embiid working hard to get back in the game, they could be well on their way to much-needed reinforcement.