There are two schools of thought on the 76ers bringing Joel Embiid back for Game 2 on Wednesday: 1) Rest him, Philadelphia stole Game 1 and they can go home with a split and a closer to full health Embiid for Game 3 Friday; 2) Every game in a close playoff series matters and if he can go in Game 2 and help fuel a win to take a dominant lead in the series, you do it.
Embiid subscribes to the second course of thought and told his teammates he plans to play in Game 2, reports Shams Charania at The Athletic.
Embiid, who was announced as the league’s MVP last night, turned to his teammates during a quick 76ers celebration and said, “I’m back,” league sources told The Athletic.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday about winning the MVP award, Embiid said it was possible he would play in Game 2.
Joel Embiid says it’s “a possibility” he’ll play Game 2.
He says he feels “pretty good,” will talk with Sixers’ medical team. Of course wants to play.
— Noah Levick (@NoahLevick) May 3, 2023
Players are often the worst source of information on their return — they have pushed through pain their entire lives and are convinced they can play when doctors are not ready to sign off. Officially, Embiid is listed as “doubtful” for Game 2. However, that could change over the course of the day (if Philadelphia moves him to questionable, it’s a sign he is moving toward playing).
If he does return, how slowed will he be? How impactful?
Embiid has missed two playoff games — with a week in between — due to an LCL sprain in his right knee suffered in Game 3 against Brooklyn last round. There has been no official announcement of a return timetable, although there have been reports from Charania this is more than a Grade 1 sprain (which would take more than a couple of weeks to recover from).
When the higher-seeded home team drops Game 1 of a series, they traditionally bounce back with a big Game 2 and even things up (as we saw this round with the Knicks against the Heat). There’s a reason the Celtics are 7.5-point favorites at our partner Points Bet as of this writing. Embiid or not, the Celtics are going to bring a new level of desperation to Game 2 (or, they should, a lack of focus has been a hallmark of this Celtics team for a couple of seasons now).
With MVP Embiid, the 76ers’ chances of winning go way up regardless of how Boston plays, and it sounds like he wants to go.