Joel Embiid’s probabilities of getting out of the second spherical for the primary time in his profession simply took an enormous blow. The Sixers big man is out indefinitely after struggling a proper orbital fracture and delicate concussion within the workforce’s series-clinching win over the Raptors on Thursday, the workforce introduced. Embiid appeared to maintain the harm late within the fourth quarter of the victory, with Philly holding a 29-point lead. Already taking part in with a torn ligament in his proper thumb, Embiid’s standing for the Sixers’ collection—which begins Monday—towards the Warmth is now unclear.
To place it bluntly, Philly is in bother. In 44 minutes with James Harden on the ground with out Embiid in the course of the first spherical, the Sixers had a minus-6.8 web ranking. And that was really an enchancment over how Philly carried out in Harden’s solo minutes in the course of the common season, when the workforce had a minus-10.2 web ranking. (For context, the league-worst Blazers had a minus-9.1 web ranking. The Sixers with Harden and no Embiid performed like a lottery workforce.)
The non-Embiid lineup Philly used most frequently within the first spherical consisted of Harden, Tobias Harris, Danny Inexperienced, Tyrese Maxey and Paul Reed. In 17 minutes of motion, that group outscored the Raptors by 15—that’s actually good! That’s doubtless the lineup Doc Rivers will use to start out, although the Sixers may have some choices. Will the workforce get freaky and dare to go small? I wouldn’t be fully shocked to see Harden, Maxey, Harris, Inexperienced and Georges Niang collectively in some unspecified time in the future if Rivers wants to actually juice the offense. Defensive ace Matisse Thybulle performed zero minutes at middle in the course of the common season, however he may be an possibility in some lineups if Rivers doesn’t need to flip to DeAndre Jordan, who hasn’t been used within the playoffs after struggling throughout a lot of his Philly stint.
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Thybulle at middle may assist mitigate the spacing considerations of taking part in him alongside Reed or Jordan, although it might be an enormous change in his function to ask him to start out screening and diving for Harden. Although rebounding with that group could be an journey, I might at the least attempt it when Bam Adebayo is on the bench. If there’s excellent news, it’s that Harden is without doubt one of the few stars within the NBA able to being a one-man band on offense. Give him a screener and a few shooters and Harden has a historical past of creating magic, even when that hasn’t occurred for the Sixers up to now.
The dangerous information is the Warmth will not be a workforce you need to begin experimenting with offensively. Miami presently has the second-best defensive effectivity within the playoffs after totally shutting down the Hawks in Spherical 1. Erik Spoelstra is in a way more advantageous place solely having to gameplan for Harden and Maxey than making an attempt to additionally clear up for Embiid. It even permits the Warmth extra lineup flexibility after they discovered some offense with P.J. Tucker at middle in Spherical 1.
I don’t assume the Sixers don’t have any likelihood to win—the Warmth have their very own harm considerations with Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler—however the outlook is bleak. Harden hasn’t proven in a very long time he might be the Houston model of himself who may isolate his workforce to an elite offense. On the similar time, this is the reason Daryl Morey went out and purchased a second celebrity. It’s an opportunity for Harden to show he can nonetheless carry out at an MVP degree, and a possibility for Maxey to construct on the star potential he flashed within the first spherical. There’s a motive Embiid completed within the high three for MVP voting, nevertheless. Shedding somebody of his caliber is near the worst doable situation to start a playoff collection.
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