Sixers advance to Round 2, but without Embiid for games 1 and 2 against the Heat

With Embiid sidelined for at least two games, the rest of the roster will have to step it up against the Heat this week

Aaron Rigby, Sports Writer

Sixers fans around the world quickly went from elated and excited to frustrated and nervous as the Sixers eliminated the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night, but not two full days after receiving the news of star center Joel Embiid’s orbital fracture that will keep him out for at least a week as the Sixers travel to Miami to play games one and two against the number one-seeded Heat. 

On Thursday, the Sixers finally closed out the Raptors after six games. Though the Sixers went up 3-0 after stealing a game in Toronto, thanks to an overtime game winning buzzer beater-three by Joel Embiid, they allowed the Raptors to steal two games, giving the media as well as fans around the world a chance to believe that the Sixers could become the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-0 series lead.  Had the Sixers lost in Toronto for a second time, the series would have gone back to Philadelphia and a game seven would have taken place. I along with many others believe that game six was the win or go home game for both teams, because even though the Sixers would have still had a chance to win in game seven, the pressure would have been too much for the Sixers to come out victorious, especially in Philly.  

But fortunately for the Sixers, the pressure is off — for losing in the first round at least. The Sixers are now set to face the Miami Heat, who finished the season with the best record in the Eastern Conference with a win-loss record of 53-29. This is the same record the Golden State Warriors finished with, but they finished third in the Western conference (just a bit of information for those who still like debating which conference is better or more competitive).

The Sixers will play the Heat tonight, but will be without Embiid. They will also have to play game two without Embiid, who will not be re-evaluated until the following week.  

According to reports by Shams Charnia, NBA Insider and analyst for The Athletic, Embiid suffered a right orbital fracture, as well as a mild concussion in game six against the Raptors. Since the time of this report by Shams, we have learned that Embiid is expected to be back by either game three or four, which will be played in Philadelphia.  

But even when Embiid returns, we should not expect him to play like his normal self, as him being “hobbled” is an extreme understatement.  Not only will he be playing with basically a fractured eye bone, but he will still be playing with his thumb injury, which doctors have told him will need to be surgically repaired in the offseason. If Embiid comes back and manages to play even 65 percent of how he did prior to going down in game six, he will earn another level of respect in my opinion, and hopefully among millions of others in the NBA community.

With Embiid down for games one and two in Miami, rotation players are going to have to take it up a notch. Backup centers like Paul Reed and Deandre Jordan are going to have to play much better than what they are used to playing with Embiid in the lineup.  Matisse Thybulle and Tobias Harris are going to have to provide more on the offensive end for the team, and James Harden is going to be under the most pressure he has been under in his entire career.  He is going to have to either win at least one of the games in Miami, or at least keep the games close and competitive.  We can’t ask for much more out of Tyrese Maxey, who is only 21 years old and playing in his fourth career playoff series.  

The main reason the Sixers went out and traded for Harden was so they could provide another offensive weapon with Embiid and so they wouldn’t be in a helpless position if Embiid were to ever get injured in an important situation (like this one — so I guess it worked out). 

In order for the Sixers to have any hope of coming out victorious in this series, they are going to need a miracle for Embiid to come back and play at the level he was prior to the face injury, and they will need Harden to turn back the clock and play like the James Harden we saw in a Houston Rockets uniform just a few years back.  If neither of these end up happening, it is going to be extremely hard for the Sixers to pull this off, especially in a seven game series in which many didn’t have the Sixers winning with a fully healthy roster.