It can never be too easy for the Philadelphia 76ers, even when they were seemingly cruising to an easy first-round victory over the Washington Wizards.
But Game 4 on Monday provided moments of hesitation for the Sixers in a 122-114 loss when star center Joel Embiid left the game after an awkward fall while trying to drive the lane to dunk in the first half.
He was ruled out for the game at halftime with right knee soreness — which was somewhat surprising considering Embiid was holding his back after his fall — and the Sixers went on to schedule an MRI for Tuesday.
At the time of this article’s publishing, the results of Embiid’s tests were not revealed, however, John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported that the “belief” was that he was fine and the MRI was scheduled out of precaution more than anything.
All things considered, the 76ers shouldn’t necessarily feel the rush to get Embiid back into the lineup — at least for the first round. Philadelphia has a comfortable 3-1 lead in the series heading back to Wells Fargo Center for Game 5 on Wednesday night where the team is almost unbeatable. They were 29-7 at home this season and won Games 1 and 2 against the Wizards to start the postseason.
The opening game of the series was a seven-point Sixers win in which Embiid was limited to just 30 minutes because of foul trouble. In the meantime, Tobias Harris stepped up with a career-high 37 points to help pace the Sixers.
Expect a similar blueprint in trying to close out the Wizards if the Sixers opt to preserve Embiid for the next round.
However, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks admitted that he’s planning for Game 5 as if Embiid would be in the Sixers’ lineup. He also lauded the star big man for what he’s been able to do in Philadelphia; high praise coming from an opposing coach.
“I was fortunate enough to play with [Hakeem] Olajuwon for almost three years,” Brooks said. “[Embiid] is doing things that I haven’t seen since. In his seventh year in the league, he’s been able to see it all now and he’s seen all the defenses, seen all the schemes, and he’s skilled. He’s a skilled, athletic, tough, high-IQ basketball player.”
Tip-off for Game 5 is at 7 p.m. ET.