Bad knee or not, Joel Embiid impacted Game 1: 39 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and three blocks. He may not have been mid-season MVP-level Embiid, but he was still very good in Philly’s series-opening loss at home to Atlanta.
After the game, he was honest about how his knee felt, via NBC Sports Philadelphia.
“Playing on a torn meniscus is not easy. All I can do is keep managing it. Do my best, get as much treatment as I can. Try to manage it to make sure it doesn’t swell up too much. Obviously, the pain is going to be there. That’s normal. But it’s all about managing it and doing whatever it takes to win. My goal is to win a championship and I’m going to put my body on the line to make sure that happens. I’m going to give everything I got….
“As long as I’m okay to be out there, I’m gonna give my best, and I’m gonna keep pushing until I can’t. As long as I’m out there I’m going to play hard. I’m going to dive for loose balls. I’m going to do whatever it takes to win.”
Embiid is playing through a “small lateral meniscus tear,” something he suffered the first round. It kept him out of Game 5 against Washington (Philadelphia still closed out the series), but he was back against the Hawks. Embiid is not the first guy to play through a meniscus injury in the playoffs — the most recent big was Andrew Bynum in 2010 — but the players tended to be diminished and still need surgery in the offseason.
When Embiid was on the court this season, the 76ers outscored their opponents by 12.4 points per 100 possessions. While one-game +/- is a flawed stat, Embiid was +13 in Game 1, with most of the negatives for the 76ers rotation coming from the bench (which Doc Rivers leaned too heavily upon, a concern the Clippers had with him last year).
Atlanta will continue to test Embiid and his knee all series, but for one game he looked pretty good — and Philadelphia was much better with him than without him.