Should the Sixers Rest Joel Embiid for the Remainder of the Series?
Just moments before Game 3 between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets tipped off on Thursday night, Joel Embiid and the medical team decided it would be best to shut down basketball activities for the night. Despite having a two-day break, Embiid's knee pain just doesn't seem to be going away any time soon.
Embiid showed up and showed out for a little over twenty minutes in each of the first two games during the seven-game series against the Nets. Although he wasn't one-hundred percent, and visibly exhausted, the Sixers' superstar big man still did everything that he could do, despite having limitations from his body.
He issued himself one of the most significant tests of his career this past week when he decided to fight through the pain, and give it a go. On Thursday, he decided to pass that test over to his teammates when he chose to remain in street clothes and sit out for the first time in the series.
The Sixers were challenged from the get-go. Throughout the regular season without Embiid, the Sixers looked a lot weaker to stronger opponents. Now, they had to prove that they could win without their All-Star center, and they were ready the test.
Once again, the first half looked like an uphill battle for the Sixers as they landed in a shootout with the Nets. At times, the Sixers looked like they had taken total control of the game. But then they would allow the Nets to go on a run and get right back into it.
Similar to the situation in Game 2, the Sixers needed to come out firing in the second half, and they did just that. It wasn't a near 150-point showing this time, but a 16-point win on the road without their best player on the court was convincing enough to ask this question; Should the Philadelphia 76ers shut down Joel Embiid for the rest of the series?
One game is a small sample size, and a lot can change from now until Saturday when the Nets host the Sixers for Game 4. A simple loss for the Sixers can even the series score back to 2-2. Having Embiid on the floor is ideal, but is it worth further risk when the Sixers can handle business without him for now?
The idea of Embiid playing on Saturday is still up in the air. Like the first three matchups, he will most likely be listed as questionable, and later viewed as a game-time decision. As his pain varies from little-to-none one day, and to quite a lot of pain the next, Embiid's status will be a mystery for as long as the Sixers' postseason run plays out. It was refreshing to see the Sixers' other talent on the roster take over (Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, JJ Redick), but as long as Embiid is feeling up to the challenge, he should play.
At this point, it's become clear that Embiid's struggle with pain is not going away anytime soon. Ever since the All-Star break, he's been dealing with it. Some rest could help, but too much rest could hurt. As the Sixers leave it ultimately up to Embiid to decide on whether he's good to play or not, they shouldn't interfere with the idea of allowing him to continue in the series against the Nets.
The Sixers looked good on Thursday without him, but Game 4 will be a different day. As Jimmy Butler said after the Game 3 victory, “We’re capable of winning some games, but we’d all definitely rather have Jo out there.” As long as the Sixers' big man is feeling up for it, the Sixers shouldn't hold him back from competing. He's their best player, and these issues with his knee aren't going away anytime soon no matter how much rest he gets.
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