Joel Embiid is doing everything that he can to be out on the floor for the Philadelphia 76ers during their second-round series against the Miami Heat. Embiid is fresh off of a concussion that he suffered against the Toronto Raptors in the first round, and he’s playing through a broken orbital bone in his face and a torn ligament in his thumb.
The fact that Embiid is still out on the floor despite the litany of injuries he’s battling is a testament to his toughness. But just because he’s playing doesn’t mean that the injuries aren’t bothering him, or impacting his play. A shot to the face sent Embiid to the ground for several minutes in Game 5 on Tuesday night, and he never quite looked like himself afterward as he finished the game with just 17 points and five rebounds.
After the game, Embiid explained how he feels like he’s fighting a “lose-lose” battle by being out on the floor, but not being at full strength.
“It’s just about pain tolerance. This is a lose-lose situation for me,” Embiid said, via Philly Voice. “If I don’t play, I probably get called soft. If I play and I play bad, [they] probably come up with a bunch of stuff that’s, I guess he’s just not good enough. So it’s all about, trying to stay, not get too high or too low, just going out there and really try to dig very deep and try to do whatever I can.
“If I say that I’m feeling a certain way, it’s probably looked at as excuses,” Embiid added. “If I don’t say anything, it’s probably looked [at] as, well, he must be fine. I don’t have an answer. Y’all know what’s going on, I’m really just pushing through it.”
Fair or not, Embiid does have a point. If a player is injured, he’s injured. But if he’s out on the floor, the masses don’t want to hear excuses, even if Embiid has a plethora of them when it comes to his poor play in Game 5. In such a situation, it’s typically up to a player’s teammates to pick up the slack, and Embiid’s running mates in Philadelphia simply didn’t do that in Game 5, as James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris combined for just 35 total points in the contest. The Sixers need more from that trio in general, but especially in a game where Embiid is clearly hampered.
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Even when he’s not at 100 percent, the Sixers are an infinitely better team when Embiid is on the floor, due to the sheer attention he draws offensively and his ability to stifle penetration on the defensive end, so there’s certainly no merit to any argument suggesting that the Sixers should sit him due to his injuries. The team, as a whole, just needs to play better in Game 6 — and beyond if they’re able to extend their season. In the meantime, Embiid plans to keep pushing through his injury issues.
“There’s a lot going on, sometimes your body and whatever that’s going on, as you know, just won’t allow you to just be yourself,” Embiid said Tuesday. “In those moments, you just got to keep pushing, hope for the best. At this point, it’s all about just being there and just keep pushing.”
Game 6 between the Sixers and Heat is set for Thursday night in Philadelphia. If the Sixers can win, they’ll extend their season by a game, at least. If not, then Embiid will have a more extended offseason to heal from his various ailments.