Joel Embiid’s postseason list of bumps and bruises kept growing on Friday.
The 76ers announced the All-NBA big man had suffered a right orbital fracture and mild concussion in Philly’s series-clinching Game 6 win at Toronto.
Embiid is not expected to travel for Games 1 and 2 in Miami but could potentially return once he clears concussion protocols, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The series moves to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4.
ESPN Sources: Joel Embiid won’t travel for Games 1 and 2 in Miami, but there’s optimism he could return as soon as either Game 3 or 4 in Philadelphia. He needs to clear concussion protocols and see doctor mid-week on his orbital fracture. More on NBA Countdown at 12:30 ET on ABC.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 1, 2022
Embiid was injured late in the 4th quarter with the Sixers up 29 points against the Raptors when Pascal Siakam drove and made contact with his left elbow.
"I think he broke my face. I'm serious. I think he broke my face, but it's all good it's the playoffs."
Embiid knew it postgame 😕 pic.twitter.com/mfc5As56s4
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 30, 2022
The All-Star center suffered a similar fracture, to his left orbital bone, which kept him out for about three weeks late in the 2017-18 season. He needed surgery and missed 10 games, including the first two games of a playoff series against the Heat.
Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers provided an update Saturday on his star center’s possible availability for the series.
“There’s hope,” Rivers said.
For now, Philadelphia will cling to that.
“I feel bad for my guy,” said Miami’s Jimmy Butler, who played with Embiid in Philadelphia.
“Obviously, one of my former teammates. Arguably, the MVP of this league. And I think I speak for everybody that’s a part of this team — we want Jo to play. We want to go up against them at full strength and prove that we can hang with anybody and we can beat anybody. It’s a mishap. I hope he recovers well, and gets back very, very soon.”
The amount of time he misses now is, obviously, contingent on the severity of whatever is fractured in the bones around Embiid’s eye. He wore a specially designed mask in 2018 when he returned, even after surgery.
The 76ers did not mention surgery in their statement Friday night, which may indicate one isn’t required this time. And there’s also the issue of getting through the NBA’s concussion protocol, though that may only take a few days.
Embiid averaged 26.2 points on 52% shooting to go along with 11.3 rebounds in Philadelphia’s first-round series against the Raptors. The Kia MVP finalist, already playing through a torn thumb ligament, is hoping to lead the 76ers to their first conference finals berth since 2001.
“Whenever you’re dealing with a team that has to change a little bit, that immediately gets them a built-in sense of urgency,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But again, what we’re trying to accomplish, it is so difficult. When you approach it that way, that just puts you there to compete at a high level, the necessary level that is going to be required.”
The Heat aren’t exactly in perfect health, either. Jimmy Butler has been slowed by a sore knee, Tyler Herro caught a cold that turned into an upper-respiratory-type mess — but not COVID-19 — and PJ Tucker has been dealing with a calf issue. (All three expect to play Monday.) And Philadelphia native Kyle Lowry missed the last two games of the first-round series against Atlanta with a hamstring strain, so the Heat can’t be certain when their point guard will be 100% again. He’s been ruled out for Game 1.
The 76ers don’t need any hyperbole along the way to realizing that they can have success against Miami. They need only to pop in the tape from March 21.
Embiid didn’t play that night. The 76ers didn’t have James Harden, either. Didn’t matter. Philadelphia outrebounded Miami 45-34, outscored the Heat 45-30 from 3-point range and pulled off a 113-106 win.
“Well, the biggest adjustment is we don’t have Joel,” Rivers said, overstating the obvious for emphasis. “There’s no good thing to it. But we did have one game without Joel against them and honestly, we won the game but I thought it was more than they looked at we didn’t have Joel, I think James was out, so I think mentally that probably played a purpose in that game. That’s not going to happen now. They don’t care who we have on the floor.”
The 76ers went 6-8 without Embiid this season. Plus, with Harden, the 76ers still have a player who is four years removed from being an MVP and two years removed from being a back-to-back-to-back scoring champion.
“Truth be told, it’s just us figuring out what we can go to through the course of a game in the playoffs,” Philadelphia forward Tobias Harris said. “It’s always adapting and figure out how the other teams is playing, what they’re taking away, what they’re allowing, and for us to capitalize in that regard.”
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.