It’s not a concussion, according to Philadelphia. It’s not a facial fracture, the team reported.
But it is something — what the Sixers are calling a “facial contusion” suffered by Joel Embiid on Wednesday night is enough that he is not traveling with the team on an upcoming two-game road trip to Atlanta and Charlotte. There were no other details and no timetable for his return to the team.
There could be something to his injury…
Or it could be the Sixers using the injury as a reason to get Embiid a little rest down the stretch of the season. Embiid has played in 63 games this season, that’s more than double last season and at the most optimistic of preseason projections for the big man. The Sixers are going to lean heavily on Embiid in the postseason so getting him some rest to freshen up his legs now is a smart move.
The problem is, the Sixers want to hold on to home court in the first round of the playoffs — Philly is currently the four seed, tied in the loss column (but with one less win) than the Cleveland Cavaliers. In an ideal world, the Sixers would love to climb up to the three seed and have an easier route through the postseason (a banged up Boston is easier than facing Toronto and/or Cleveland), but they want home court in the first round either way.
That’s where resting him for any length of time is an issue. When Embiid sits the Sixers defense gets six points per 100 possessions worse, and the offense falls further than that. When Embiid is on the court, the Sixers outscore opponents by 11.6 points per 100 possessions — that’s better than the Rockets season net rating — but when he sits the Sixers get outscored by 3.6 per 100, that’s Knicks level territory. He makes that big a difference.
While the two games the Sixers have coming up should be wins for them, without Embiid it’s no sure thing.
The injury itself that sent Embiid out of Thursday’s game was a fluke.
It was supposed to be a simple dribble-handoff, but as Embiid fumbled the ball then leaned forward to regain possession his face collided Markelle Fultz who was cutting off his screen. Embiid went down quickly, and if there is no concussion or facial fracture that is a lucky break.