Joel Embiid came into Wednesday night’s game nursing a sore right rib. The Philadelphia 76ers center was a game-time decision who tested the injury during pre-game warmups before deciding he felt good enough to play.
Embiid mostly looked fine while scoring 17 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in a 101-96 loss to Miami. Then, more tragedy hit with 1 minute, 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Embiid missed a 25-footer that would have tied the game at 95-95. And the 7-footer crashed to the floor like a falling tree as Kyle Lowry grabbed the defensive rebound. He clutched at his left ankle and stayed there for several minutes.
“Ankle, yeah,” Embiid said. “It was pretty painful.”
Embiid has never been a player to make excuses, though. He deemed his injured rib “fine” and wouldn’t admit to feeling any discomfort there. He has also battled through a knee issue and COVID-19 scare scare this season. Now the big man will probably be listed questionable for Thursday’s road game against the Brooklyn Nets. No rest for the weary. More importantly, no more Dewayne Dedmon.
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Heat Confuse Sixers with Tricky Zone
Miami employed a tricky defense – a stifling zone: two-three, matchup hybrid – versus Philadelphia that caused them fits in the first half. Head coach Doc Rivers told his team at halftime that the best way to beat it was to “get into the gap” and kick it out for open threes. Which they did. The Sixers won the second half, 47-43.
“Ball movement and attacks,” Rivers said. “Like we’ve been very good against zone, and we prepared for it and then tonight like the ball just stayed on the outside. You got to get into the paint, it is no different in the second half when they ran zone and all of a sudden we got everything we wanted.”
Embiid seemed to indicate that it wouldn’t hurt to have a few more long-range shooters on the roster. They went 12-of-37 from deep (32.4%) after Danny Green caught fire late. He hit three triples to give him 1,500 for his career, 16th-best among active players.
“I’ve been saying it all year it’s not the first time we need a shooter,” Embiid said. “We need to shoot a lot of them and obviously, you gotta make them.”
Slow Starts, Not Enough Energy
Philadelphia went down 29-18 after the first quarter, then trailed 58-49 at the break. Forty-one of those 49 first-half points came from three players: Tobias Harris (15), Joel Embiid (14), Tyrese Maxey (12). Harris was putting the ball on the floor early and then it just started sticking.
“I will say at the beginning of the game I thought Tobias was the only one that started out attacking,” Rivers said, “and he got everything he wanted and then we went away from it.”
Maxey carried them in the second half – 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, with five assists – but it wasn’t enough to pull off an epic comeback. Not against that tricky zone. And not after exhausting all their energy to fight back from 23 points down.
“Energy, you know it came out flat at the beginning of the game,” Maxey said. “Everybody who stepped on the court had an extreme amount of fight and determination. It’s tough when you exert all your energy like that to come back on a good team. It’s hard to win.”