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NY Post
New York Post
22 Apr 2023


NextImg:Joel Embiid’s status for rest of 76ers-Nets series uncertain after knee injury

The Nets won’t have to face Joel Embiid in Saturday’s do-or-die Game 4 against Philadelphia, although not because of suspension, but injury.

Embiid escaped an ejection in Game 3 and a retroactive suspension for kicking Nic Claxton in the groin.

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But the 76ers center did suffer a sprained knee Thursday night and will miss Saturday’s Game 4 – at least.

His status for the rest of this first-round series is uncertain.

“I don’t know. I can’t answer that,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “I’m not sure. I will say that.”

Saturday marked the 16th time Embiid missed a game this season for Philadelphia, with the Sixers going 11-5.

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Still, his absence changes Brooklyn’s game plan and the entire complexion of the game.

“Yeah, different because obviously he was a extreme focus for us, and in the previous games,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “He ended up with 14 points last game … He’s been No. 1 on our scouting report, so had to go back and look at some games with no Embiid. What does that look like for their group? They play differently, faster, more transition. [Tyrese] Maxey becomes a premium along with [James] Harden, and more shooting out there. So it changes that dynamic and it changes our scouting report for sure.

Joel Embiid (21) grimaces after falling to the floor during Game 3 of the 2023 NBA playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets.
USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

“It just changes now. You’ll see more pick-and-roll with Harden. So what are we willing to give up with him? You’ll see Maxey as a primary ballhandler, not as a recipient, and that’s what he’s been because we focused on Harden and Embiid. So what does that look like coverage for him? Then what are you willing to give up when they have shooters and non-shooters on the floor?”

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Brooklyn had been so adamant on doubling Embiid, that the MVP favorite’s gravity created open 3-point looks for other Sixers.

Rivers facetiously invited the Nets to stick with the same plan.

“Obviously losing Joel takes away a lot of stuff. It changes the way the game will be played,” Rivers said. “I will invite them if they would like to trap all our fives; I would be really appreciative. I don’t think they should change the game plan at all. But I got a feeling they will.”

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For their part, trailing 0-3 – a deficit no team in NBA history has ever successfully overturned – the Nets say the plan is simple: Win.

“We just got to focus on ourselves. Keep hooping. Don’t worry about it,” Royce O’Neale said. “Take it one game at a time. I didn’t pay any attention to it.”

Embiid has a long history of injuries in the playoffs.

He had an orbital fracture and mild concussion last season, a knee injury in 2021, a stomach virus in 2019, and another orbital fracture in 2018.

76ers

Joel Embiid could miss the rest of the series against the Nets.
Getty Images

“I talked to him [Embiid]; I mean obviously, clearly, that’s on your mind like, it is. But just as I said, this is another obstacle in the story that we’re gonna write this year.  And you’re gonna be OK. It may take a minute but this is just part of it,” Rivers said. “I’m sure he’s human. Goodness, this happens again. So let’s win, let’s get him back on the floor. And let’s just keep on our own journey. And that’s basically what we talked about.”