The Philadelphia 76ers are the only team to complete a series sweep in the first round of the playoffs this season, as they defeated the Brooklyn Nets in four games. The Sixers won the fourth and final game of the series without the help of star center Joel Embiid, who was sidelined with a knee injury he sustained in Game 3. The sweep was Philadelphia’s first since 1991, but was clearly overshadowed by Embiid’s injury. as the Sixers need him to go on a real title run.
As it turns out, Embiid has a sprained LCL in his right knee and is expected to be reassessed later this week, according to ESPN star Ramona Shelburne. Embiid didn’t practice on Wednesday, but did some stationary firing on the side. Although he is still not cleared to practice, Sixers coach Doc Rivers said Embiid will have a “bigger encounter” with doctors or Thursday or Friday.
The good news for Philly is that because the Atlanta Hawks avoided elimination in Game 5 against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night, it forced a Game 6 on Thursday, giving Embiid extra time to recover for the second round. Even if the Hawks don’t force Game 7 with the Celtics, the second round for the Sixers won’t begin until Monday, May 1 at the earliest. That gives Embiid five days to rest before trying in round two. .
There is some organizational optimism that the big man could be ready for the start of the Eastern Conference semifinals, a team source confirmed to CBS Sports, which is great news for a Sixers team that would be at a significant disadvantage without their All star big man.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia, postseason injuries to Embiid have become a theme in recent years. He suffered a meniscus tear in 2021 that sidelined him for the team’s first-round closeout game against the Washington Wizards. As on Saturday, the Sixers managed to finish the series against Washington without Embiid, who then played through the injury in the next round against Atlanta.
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Last season, Embiid suffered a concussion and an orbital fracture in the first round against Toronto, forcing him to miss the first two games of the next series against Miami. Unsurprisingly, the Sixers dropped both games and lost the series 4-2. If Embiid had been available for those two games, the series might have turned out differently.
The hope this time is that Embiid doesn’t have to miss a single moment in the second round. Missing a game or two can turn an entire series upside down, just like last season against the Heat. The Sixers have a deeper and more complete squad than in years past, but they’re not built to withstand a prolonged absence of the MVP favorite.
Even if Embiid can play from the start of the series, it’s fair to wonder what impact the injury will have on his performance. When he’s at his best, he’s arguably the most dominant player in the NBA. That’s the man the Sixers need to advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2001.