Masked Embiid returns for Sixers' Game 3 vs. Heat


Four years later, here we are again.

Joel Embiid will return Friday night to start Game 3 of the Sixers’ second-round playoff series with the Heat eight days after suffering a concussion and right orbital fracture. He sustained the injuries during the Sixers' Game 6 victory last Thursday over the Raptors.

In 2018, Embiid played Game 3 of a first-round series against Miami after being sidelined with a concussion and left orbital fracture. He posted 23 points and seven rebounds in a road win. Again, he requires a mask to protect the orbital fracture.

This time around, Embiid is also dealing with a torn ligament in his right thumb. He cleared concussion protocol, participated in the Sixers’ Friday morning shootaround, and was officially upgraded from “out” to “doubtful” at approximately 12:30 p.m. He went through his typical pregame warmup routine and was then definitively deemed good to go.

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said pregame that Embiid would have no hard minutes limit, but that the 28-year-old hadn't been able to run much due to his concussion. Rivers said team medical staffers would monitor Embiid closely.

The Sixers went 6-8 during the regular season without Embiid and dropped this series’ first two games in Miami. The team had bright moments, including a late second-quarter surge in Game 1 that put the Sixers up a point at halftime, but they've consistently been much worse when Embiid’s not on the floor. And 14-for-64 shooting from three-point range over Games 1 and 2 certainly harmed their chances of beating the Eastern Conference's top seed despite his absence.

Of the six seasons Embiid has played, 2019-20 was the only one in which the Sixers’ on/off net rating differential with him was not a (positive) double-digit figure, per Cleaning the Glass.

DeAndre Jordan and Paul Reed were the Sixers’ primary centers to begin the Heat series. Rivers also used small-ball lineups at times, and Paul Millsap got six minutes in Game 1. Rivers praised his centers’ effort Wednesday night, commending Jordan and Reed for “fighting their butts off,” but it’s long been obvious that Embiid is an irreplaceable player.

Miami's Kyle Lowry will also start Game 3, moving Gabe Vincent back to the bench. The Villanova product had sat out four straight games with a left hamstring strain.

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