The Philadelphia 76ers were the first team to advance to the second round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs, but it was with a potential cost. Joel Embiid, one of the frontrunners for the Most Valuable Player award, is still nursing a right knee sprain. Continue reading below for a more detailed Joel Embiid injury update.
Joel Embiid injury updated 2023 Playoffs
While there’s still no exact Embiid return date, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers recently gave an update on his star center’s condition.
After the Embiid-less Sixers won Game 4 of their first-round playoff matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, Rivers told the media that there’s only a 50-50 chance that Embiid will be available at the start of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
If you’re a Sixer fan, that’s quite a concerning trend. Should the Boston Celtics wrap up their first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, the Celtics-Sixers semifinals matchup will start earlier. This will give Embiid less time to recover, and there’s a fat chance that he will miss the start of the second round.
How will Embiid’s injury affect the Sixers’ playoff chances?
The impact would be enormous; Embiid is an MVP frontrunner for a reason. With his scoring prowess and defensive acumen, there’s no doubt that the Sixers superstar has become one of the best centers in NBA history.
For the second straight year, Embiid led the league in scoring during the regular season. Along with scoring average of 33.1 points, he’s also anchoring the Sixers’ defense with a stat line of 10.2 rebounds, 1.0 steals, and 1.7 blocks.
So how will the Sixers replicate their success without Embiid? Back-up big man Paul Reed has been a revelation throughout the season, and he’s doing better in the playoffs. Reed filled in for the injured Embiid in Game 4 against the Nets, hauling down a double-double night of 10 points and 15 boards.
But with a potential matchup against the Celtics just around the corner, it will take more than Reed’s double-double outings for the Sixers to survive.
Stage is set for Harden
For the second time in his illustrious career, James Harden led the league in assists (10.7). His partnership with Embiid, along with the presence of other scorers like Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris, has given Harden solid beneficiaries for his dimes.
Without Embiid though, the Sixers’ offense might not have enough weaponry to effectively attack the Celtics’ vaunted defense. The C’s have been very consistent on defense in recent years; they ranked third in defensive rating (111.5) this season.
To pierce through the Celtics’ armory, the Sixers might need more of Harden’s scoring exploits. Harden is “only” averaging 21 points this year, his lowest output since the 2011-12 season.
Currently, the lefty star is norming 14.5 field goal attempts. Against the Celtics, the Sixers might need Harden to put up at least 18 shot attempts every game. The Celtics employ a switch-heavy defense, and they’re probably the best at that. One way to avoid that switching defense is to put your best star in isolation, something that Harden was exceptional at during his days as a Houston Rocket.
But can Harden re-ignite his scoring machine days? It was just three years ago when Harden was averaging north of 30 points per game, but his play style has recently diverted from shot-creating to a whole lot of playmaking.
Of course, the Sixers still have other options in Maxey and Harris. But if Harden can put on a scoring show against the Celtics, it could open up more opportunities for his teammates.