Before Sixers fans could even breathe a sigh of relief over the possibility of going to a Game 7 despite a 3-0 lead, they’re gasping for air upon hearing the news that Joel Embiid is out indefinitely with a right orbital fracture and a mild concussion. The injury, courtesy of an elbow from Pascal Siakam late in Philly’s series-clinching thrashing of Toronto on Thursday, couldn’t have come at a worse time for the MVP candidate who also is playing through a torn ligament in his thumb.
It’s now on teammate James Harden to keep the 76ers afloat against No. 1 seed Miami in the second round until the big man can return. This isn’t Embiid’s first orbital fracture either. He fractured the left one in the 2017-18 season, and it required surgery, forcing him to miss three weeks. He missed the first two games of those playoffs, which also came against the Heat.
Embiid wore a mask then, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to play through it if it’s even remotely a possibility. The guy already opted to postpone a surgery, so throwing on a mask and hoping it’ll be enough to keep his eye in its socket seems like a reasonable option. But again, that’s if it’s even an option at all.
The phrase “can’t catch a break” comes to mind, but all Embiid seems to do is break in the playoffs. Last season, he played through a torn meniscus, and the year before that, the Bubble season, he battled an ankle injury during a first-round exit against the Celtics. The only season he’s been healthy in the playoffs, by his shaky standards, was 2019, when Kawhi Leonard famously hit the four-bounce buzzer beater in Game 7 to send Philly home.
As someone who loves basketball and would’ve voted Embiid for MVP had I been given a ballot, it royally blows that this happened. He had an insane regular season, and looked like Shaq with a stepback to start the playoffs. And, in general, the NBA postseason without stars never stops being demoralizing. Who knows how healthy Devin Booker is, Khris Middleton is out for the Bucks-Celtics series, apparently Jaylen Brown’s hamstring is nagging him and now this? Who’s got an orbital bone that Embiid can borrow for a few weeks?
Harden supporters, if there are any left other than I guess Sixers’ fans and Daryl Morey, will now get to watch the Beard try to go one on five against a team that just decapitated the head of the Trae Young-led snake with relative ease. Like it or not, we’re about to get the James Harden Reality Tour.
He’s arguably the best player on the court now that Embiid is out, but we haven’t seen that version of Harden since he left Houston. Buckle up… or avert your eyes.
The last series of the first round ended Friday night as Minnesota blew another late lead, getting outscored 40-22 in the final period. It was the third time this series that the Wolves entered the fourth quarter with a double digit lead and lost.
Memphis now faces Golden State in a rematch of a play-in game from last year that the Grizzlies won. The matchup oozes fun as both teams are healthy, and the amount of depth, athleticism, skill, play-making, shooting, and stars is glorious. (Please, basketball gods, give us seven games.)
The real winner from last night was Tee Morant, who had an ongoing and good-natured feud with Karl Anthony Towns Sr. during the first round. After the game, Tee made KAT Sr. take his son’s jersey.
Love the energy, Tee, but there’s no way Ja’s jersey is fitting Big KAT.