NEW YORK — In his sixth career playoff appearance, Joel Embiid will be sidelined by injury for the fifth time.
Embiid left the Sixers Friday night in Game 4 of their first-round series against the Nets with a sprained right knee, which begins Saturday at 1 PM ET in Brooklyn.
Daniel House Jr. (non-Covid illness) was listed as questionable after the Sixers’ Game 3 win Thursday night.
Embiid was caught on two occasions with his right knee and his range of motion was limited during the second half of Game 3. At the end of a timeout, he bowed to the Nets’ logo before action resumed. Embiid eventually posted 14 points on 5-for-13 shooting, 10 rebounds and two blocks as the Sixers took a 3-0 series lead in 38 physical, high-drama minutes.
“I’m good,” Embiid said after the game. “I took a lot of shots today, but I’m fine.”
As of Friday afternoon, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said he wasn’t sure about Embiid’s condition, although he recognized it was a physically tough night for his MVP favorite big man.
“I don’t think he looks good,” Rivers said before a team film session. “He was on the floor like the floor. Every time I saw him he was getting up. But I don’t know how he’s feeling. We’ll find out.”
While Embiid hasn’t missed an extended stretch of the playoffs due to injury, unfortunately he’s had a number of physical issues pop up and play through pain more often than not. For now, the 2020 postseason is injury-free. Last year Embiid suffered a torn right thumb ligament, an orbital fracture and a concussion in the playoffs. He sat out Games 1 and 2 of the Sixers’ second-round series against the Heat and wore a protective mask upon his return.
As they have been every season of Embiid’s career, the Sixers were a significantly better team this year, with the 29-year-old on the court ahead of him. For cleaning glassEmbiid’s on-off net rating difference over garbage time is plus-10.9.
However, the team was able to win 11 of the 16 regular season games that Embiid missed and many of those wins included strong contributions from role players like D’Anthony Melton, Shayk Milton and Paul Reid.
Reid has backed Embiid so far against Brooklyn. Seniors Dewayne Dedmon and Montresl Harrell are the other center options on the Sixers’ roster, and the team is confident in PJ Tucker’s ability as a small-ball center throughout the season.
After backup big man Da’Ron Sharp logged 17 minutes in the series opener, Brooklyn leaned heavily on smaller lineups in Games 2 and 3 and continued with steady, aggressive double-teams on Embiid. Without the six-time All-Star center, the game plans for Rivers and Nets head coach Jack Vaughn will no doubt be completely different Saturday.