Sixers news

Embiid officially questionable for play-in game; Heat rule out Rozier 

Embiid was a full practice participant on Monday and Tuesday.

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Official injury report aside, all signs point to Joel Embiid being available for the 2023-24 Sixers’ biggest game yet.

The Sixers listed Embiid as questionable for Wednesday night’s clash vs. the Heat with a “left knee injury recovery” designation.

That’s not uncommon at all for Embiid, who Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said fully participated in the team’s practices Monday and Tuesday. 

After returning from a left meniscus injury, Embiid has five appearances under his belt, including a 29-point performance in the Sixers’ April 4 win over the Heat. Though Embiid sat out the Sixers’ regular-season finale against the Nets, Nurse said that absence was “out of caution” and Embiid would be “ready to go” moving forward.

It would be quite surprising if the All-Star center missed a crucial play-in tournament game. 

“He was in good spirits,” Nurse said Monday of Embiid. “He was highly engaged. A lot of things we were doing were super game plan-specific. He was locked in.”

The Sixers expectedly ruled out De’Anthony Melton (back injury recovery) and Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise). KJ Martin was questionable because of a left great toe contusion. 

On the Heat side, Terry Rozier remained out with neck spasms. Miami listed Duncan Robinson (left facet syndrome) as probable.

The Heat acquired Rozier and dealt away Kyle Lowry in late January. With Rozier out, Tyler Herro will presumably start and fill an important shot-creation role for Miami's offense.

Herro has been able to play the last six games since coming back from a right foot injury. He suffered a broken hand in the opening game of Miami’s first-round playoff series last year against the Bucks and didn’t play again during the Heat’s run to the NBA Finals. 

“He’s certainly a guy they go to, to create offense,” Nurse said Tuesday. “There’s certain lineups in the past where they’ve used him as a primary scorer. And he’s also got a good little two-man thing with Bam (Adebayo) going. ... I believe he’ll be aggressive. He’s healthy, super fresh. I think he’s hungry; he didn’t play last playoffs. So I think we better be ready for a good version of him and an aggressive version of him.”

Lowry played in all 23 of the Heat’s playoff games in 2023.

Tyrese Maxey called the veteran floor general's Miami experience “extremely helpful.” 

“He’s somebody that knows the ins and outs of a team like that,” Maxey said, “especially a guy that played heavy minutes on two (Heat) playoff teams — conference finals (in 2022) and then the Finals last year. … For him to be on our team now — not just against Miami, but against any opponent — we pick his brain a lot. Coach lets him speak his mind a lot in film sessions and on the court. We need him to do that and we’re glad to have him on our side.”

Though it’s not brand-new for Maxey, immense minutes and responsibility are likely coming in the playoffs, especially with Melton’s injury. 

Maxey’s 37.5 minutes per game ranked second in the NBA during the regular season. He played at least 39 minutes in all four games this year against the Heat. A little over a week ago, Maxey racked up 54 minutes in San Antonio and scored a career-high 52 points.

“After my second year in the second round, I was exhausted, man,” he said. “I felt my body breaking down. For me, in the summers I try to lift a lot. And during the seasons, I try to maintain lifting and I spend a lot of time on my conditioning. And now I feel great. This is the best I’ve felt going into the playoffs since I started playing in the NBA. 

“But you have to grind for it. It’s a grind for sure. You have to condition yourself for it. You have to play as much as you can in the regular season, as hard as you can in the regular season, but you still have to take it up to another level come playoff time. And I think we’re ready to do that.”

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