Embiid leaves with injury as Sixers fall to Warriors: Likes and dislikes
The Sixers (29-16) visited the Golden State Warriors (19-24) on Tuesday. Philadelphia wanted to snap a three-game losing streak. Golden State wanted to stop a two-game schneid of its own. A clearly injured Joel Embiid did what he could through three-and-a-half quarters, only to leave with a knee injury in the fourth quarter as the Sixers fell, 119-107.
Before we get to what I saw, some notes.
The Sixers were without the services of Tyrese Maxey, who has a sprained left ankle.
De'Anthony Melton remained out as he recovers from a stress response to lumbar spine soreness. Nico Batum missed the game with a tight left hamstring.
Marcus Morris Sr. was out with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Robert Covington has a bone bruise in his left knee and was not available.
Kenny Lofton Jr. was out due to personal reasons.
Nick Nurse started Patrick Beverley, Kelly Oubre Jr., Danuel House Jr., Tobias
Harris, and Joel Embiid.
The Warriors were without the services of Klay Thompson, who has an illness.
Moses Moody missed the game with a strained left calf. Gary Payton II has a strained left hamstring and was out.
Chris Paul has a fractured left hand and was not available.
Steve Kerr started Stephen Curry, Brandin Podziemski, Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, and Draymond Green.
- The Sixers were out-gunned and out-run early in this game. But, the tone of the game completely changed when Jaden Springer checked in. He brought Philadelphia to life on both ends of the floor. Springer pressured the ball and intuitively played both passing and driving lanes, blowing up Golden State possessions to get Philadelphia stops and opportunities in transition.
Springer's body type enables him to bull-doze his way to the basket. But, he's small enough to get the benefit of aesthetics when it comes to drawing fouls. So, Springer helped slow the game down with scores at the rim and trips to the free throw line. Philadelphia had no business leading by multiple possessions after the first quarter, but the Sixers did because of of Springer.
- Sorely missing their second best player and a bunch of their depth, the Sixers desperately needed anyone to step up and offer some offensive juice off the bench. The night belonged to Furkan Korkmaz, who notched 19 points on five triples in a little more than 20 minutes for the blue jerseys. Philadelphia hasn't had much shooting at all in the last few games, and Korkmaz burned the Warriors for going under screens or not stepping up to the ball when he had it in his hands.
- The biggest reason I was optimistic about the addition of Oubre was that I thought Philadelphia's bench perpetually lacked someone at his position who would fearlessly call their own number. When this team is at full strength, he'll still probably be relegated to reserve duties. But, right now, he's grouped in with the first unit. Not that that should change his DNA as a player.
However, any time you're in a lineup with Embiid, you need to exercise some level of awareness on offense. Any time you're playing against the Warriors in the Steph Curry era, you need to exercise some awareness on offense because every missed shot and every live-ball turnover leaves you susceptible to an open transition three from the sharpshooting guard. Oubre's quick trigger only backfired once to that degree in the first half, so not a huge deal. But, if you're going to shoot it that early in the possession, it needs to be a good shot because you cannot give that particular team a running start down the floor on a long miss.
- Only Embiid knows how his body truly feels. But, I've never seen him look so helpless on the court. To be clear, that's not a criticism of him or his effort. It's admirable that he wants to be out there for his teammates. But, he looked unbelievably uncomfortable on the court. He had very limited mobility, zero lift, and looked unable to bend his knee at times in the first half.
It can be easy to panic as you see your hold on the 3-seed in the East wane to the point that you even drop in the standings. But, the Sixers should believe that they can beat anyone (except maybe the Boston Celtics) without having homecourt advantage. They - and Embiid - have proven all they can prove in the regular season over these last several years. Now, it's about the playoffs.
Given the team's current state, I'm not sure what the benefit was of Embiid playing in this game. He's clearly not healthy, and Philadelphia was so short-handed in a very challenging road environment that the odds of winning the game without the big guy being at his best were likely slim anyway.
- Regardless of the primary motivations, it was certainly admirable that Embiid suited up despite likely knowing what his body's limitations would be. However, I hope that he wasn't motivated by the Denver media and fans who questioned his character after he was a late scratch for Saturday's game. He has nothing to prove to anyone in the regular season, and those self-centered whiners in Colorado are certainly no exception to that.
- The Sixers would've been in less-than-ideal shape if Embiid had come out of this game in the same condition that he was in at tip-off. But, he left the game with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter after Kuminga fell into his leg during a scrum for a loose ball. It appeared as though Embiid hyperextended the knee that was already injured, and he writhed in pain upon impact.
Embiid eventually left the court under his own power. But, now Philadelphia may have to reckon with a more disastrous scenario in the aftermath of whatever might come of that hyperextension. He clearly shouldn't have been cleared to play in this game. Now, the Sixers' problems may have just begun.
The Sixers (29-17) will visit the Utah Jazz (24-25) on Thursday. Tip-off is scheduled for 10 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the action on TNT.
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