Joel Embiid was just named MVP of the league for the 2022-23 season, the culmination of many years of hard work for the Cameroonian sensation. After a brief celebration with the team last night, the focus now shifts back to the task at hand: the Philadelphia 76ers need to beat the Boston Celtics thrice more.
James Harden’s 45-point masterclass led the Sixers to victory in Game 1 with Embiid on the sideline. Facing what has been deemed “more than a Grade 1” LCL sprain in his knee, questions about Embiid’s availability have been looming over this series for two weeks now.
The Sixers managed to stun Boston in Game 1 without Embiid’s services, but it won’t be so easy moving forward.
Is Joel Embiid playing tonight? 76ers-Celtics Game 2 injury update
Joel Embiid has said his life feels like a movie. Well, if this ain’t straight from the movies…
Embiid plans to return for Wednesday night’s Game 2 showdown with the Boston Celtics. The key phrase from Shams’ report is “barring setbacks,” so nothing is written in stone. Doc Rivers recently labeled Embiid as doubtful, so don’t be surprised if the official injury report at least places the questionable tag on the league’s Most Valuable Player.
That said, Embiid’s return is a massively positive development for the Sixers. Even if Embiid only returns at partial strength — he will no doubt be feeling pain in his knee, and he’ll likely need to re-establish his conditioning after such a long time off — the attention he demands from Boston’s defense will make life easier on teammates. Not to mention the headaches his post presence will cause for Boston’s offense.
Harden’s Game 1 performance showed that he still has superstar nights left in the tank. With Embiid hurt, the Sixers will need Harden to maintain his aggressiveness and pressure the defense constantly out of pick-and-rolls. If anything, Embiid could function more as a decoy — setting solid screens for Harden, flaring into open space, and forcing the defense to think twice before selling out to stop Harden en route to the cup.
It’s unlikely that Embiid will be able to play a full minutes load in his first game back. That means Paul Reed will still be called upon for significant contributions at the five spot. He has delivered in two consecutive starts, so there’s reason to believe in the 23-year-old who once resided in the mud, but is now out.
The Sixers have home-court advantage now. A Game 2 victory would swing all the momentum in their favor. It’s unlikely — Boston will be considerable home favorites — but hey, we all would’ve said Embiid winning MVP was unlikely eight years ago. And here we are.