Joel Embiid was clearly bothered by the massive brace on his right knee. He wasn’t as aggressive on offense, he wasn’t as mobile in his return after missing a couple of weeks with a sprained knee.
But he still had some impressive blocks and dunks on his way 15 points and five blocks on the night.
The D in Embiid stands for defense. pic.twitter.com/T2E1ImNopk
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) May 4, 2023
That just wasn’t near enough against a desperate Celtics team. Embiid sounded like he thought his outing adequate considering he says he was supposed to be out a month with his sprained LCL. From Noah Levic at NBC Sports Philadelphia:
“What I have is supposed to be out four to six weeks or something like that,” he said. “So I’m not going to be 100 percent for that whole time; I’m not going be fully healed for that whole time. I felt pretty good to play and I feel like I can help the team defensively and offensively. Obviously, offensively, I wasn’t as aggressive. I was just trying to let the game come to me. And then defensively, just protecting the rim, and I think I did a fine job when it comes to that.
“So I just felt like being up 1-0 and having a chance to go up 2-0 against this type of team, I knew they were going to come at us. I expected it, but you never know. Anything can happen, so I just felt like it probably would have been the same result as far as how I’m feeling if I would’ve come back in Game 3. Probably rusty and not myself, but I feel like, just get this out of the way.
“Disappointed by the loss, but that’s a step towards getting back to myself and obviously, I’ve got a lot of work to do. And that starts tonight and tomorrow to make sure I’m ready for Friday.”
Embiid has to make those steps faster if he is going to help the 76ers get past the Celtics. Embiid saying he was supposed to be out 4-6 weeks supports the reporting that this was a Grade 2 sprain, the fact he is playing through it is impressive. His challenge is that this series runs every other day the entire way with no breaks. While the travel is not bad between Boston and Philly, that’s still not a lot of time to rest and recover between games.
James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and the other Sixers are going to have to carry more of an offensive load this series, Philadelphia isn’t getting regular season, 33 points a night Embiid. However, if he can be a defensive force in the paint and a matchup problem in some situations, Embiid can help this team.
Whether that version of Embiid will be enough against Boston is another question.