There were few positives for the 76ers to take away from the first two games against Miami: they lost by 14 and 16 points, the first time the 76ers lost back-to-back playoff games by at least 14 points since 2008; the 76ers have shot 14-of-64 from 3 (21.9%); James Harden is shooting 39.4% and not looking like the elite superstar the Sixers need him to be; and Philadelphia is in an 0-2 hole to No. 1 seed Miami.
The one ray of hope: The return of Joel Embiid.
That doesn’t look like it’s happening for Game 3 — he has been officially listed as out. However, out of the Embiid/76ers camp there is still hope.
The Sixers are currently listing Joel Embiid as out for Game 3, but there’s still progress that could be made to change his availability vs. Heat on Friday.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 5, 2022
Embiid has been out since suffering a concussion and orbital bone fracture in his face in the final minutes of the close-out game against the Raptors. It was not an optimistic sign when, during Game 2, TNT reporter Chris Haynes said that Tuesday was the first day Embiid could even look at his phone because it was too bright. That makes it sounds like the injuries are more serious than the 76ers tried to let on.
The 76ers need Embiid back.
They have had no answers for Bam Adebayo, nor for Miami’s ability to drive the lane then kick-out to open shooters. Without Embiid to overpower the Heat inside, the 76ers’ scorers have struggled to put up points consistently against an elite Heat defense. Doc Rivers can tweak the rotations or draw up some new sets for Tyrese Maxey and Furkan Korkmaz, but this isn’t about coaching or some other adjustment or tweak. Without their MVP-level star, the 76ers are not the same team.
Philadelphia is already in a deep hole in this series and if Embiid misses Game 3 — as it currently appears he will — that hole is about to get impossibly deep.