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What Joel Embiid’s return means for the Philadelphia 76ers and the East playoff picture



What Joel Embiid's return means for the Philadelphia 76ers and the East playoff picture

PHILADELPHIA — When Joel Embiid barreled down the courtroom inside the ultimate 30 seconds of Tuesday evening’s sport in opposition to the Western Convention-leading Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder, the sellout crowd inside Wells Fargo Heart rose to its toes.

In the meantime, 76ers coach Nick Nurse held his breath.

“Go sooner?” Nurse stated postgame, when requested what was going by way of his thoughts when he noticed Embiid driving the paint within the closing moments of a one-point sport after swiping the ball from Thunder guard Josh Giddey.

Seconds after the steal, Embiid, in his first sport in eight weeks after present process a process on the lateral meniscus in his left knee, jumped into Thunder heart Chet Holmgren on the rim. The collision despatched the rookie into the photographers behind the basket and Embiid to the free throw line. “Man, I used to be making an attempt to get the and-one,” Embiid stated postgame.

Embiid knocked down a pair of free throws, and after a closing sequence that noticed Oklahoma Metropolis miss three potential game-tying 3-pointers inside the ultimate 13 seconds of the sport, Embiid and the 76ers have been capable of have fun a 109-105 victory over the Thunder. Philly’s MVP large man was formally again.



Joel Embiid comes up with essential steal in crunch time

Joel Embiid breaks away from Josh Giddey after the steal and is fouled in transition.

General, it was an uneven efficiency for Embiid: 24 factors on 6-for-14 taking pictures however 12-for-12 from the foul line, to associate with 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 6 turnovers in almost half-hour on the courtroom. Most significantly, Embiid appeared to emerge unscathed from a well being perspective, simply as he did from Saturday’s prolonged 5-on-5 observe, his first full session together with his teammates since Golden State Warriors ahead Jonathan Kuminga inadvertently fell on his leg throughout a sport on Jan. 30.

Now, the 76ers shift to Miami for one of many greatest remaining video games within the common season Thursday evening. Embiid, who was visibly exhausted at occasions throughout Tuesday’s win, stated the aim is to play in that sport, too.

“We simply gotta take it daily, see how the knee responds tomorrow,” Embiid stated. “We received a giant one in Miami. If I am good to go, clearly go.”

Tuesday’s sport, at the same time as fellow All-Star Tyrese Maxey and the workforce’s different beginning guard, De’Anthony Melton, watched in road garments, was an indication that this contender, with lower than two weeks to go within the common season, is near changing into entire.

“I would like us to go on a run to complete the season,” Embiid stated. “So, we received to take [the wins], and hold competing.”

As the remainder of the Japanese Convention’s contenders watch Embiid and the Sixers over their closing six video games of the common season, here is how the reigning MVP’s return might shake up the playoff race.

What Embiid means for Philadelphia on the courtroom

For Philadelphia, the subsequent two weeks are about two issues: getting Embiid up-to-speed and doing all the things attainable to keep away from the play-in event. Whereas Embiid’s return was an apparent increase, it confirmed how a lot his workforce has modified since he went out in late January. Earlier than Tuesday’s sport, Embiid had by no means performed a single second with beginning guards Kyle Lowry and Cameron Payne and sixth man Buddy Hield — all three arrived at or close to the Feb. 8 commerce deadline. Embiid’s victorious comeback additionally got here with fellow All-Star Tyrese Maxey sitting out for a second consecutive sport with a hip harm.

When Embiid is on the courtroom this season, Philadelphia is scoring 120.6 factors per 100 possessions and permitting 110.5. These would rank because the second-best offense and third-best protection within the NBA over a full season. However throughout Embiid’s harm, Philadelphia was outscored by 4.9 factors per 100 possessions, the ninth-worst mark within the league in that span.

Now, there are causes for optimism that the workforce assembled across the reigning MVP is healthier than the roster when Embiid went down. Lowry, the North Philadelphia native, has hit 39% of his 3-pointers as a Sixer, gives stable two-way play and has a priceless reference to 76ers coach Nick Nurse from their shared time along with the Toronto Raptors.

Hield, in the meantime, is the newest in a line of sharpshooting guards that transfer nicely off the ball who ought to slip proper into some glorious two-man sport actions with Embiid, simply as J.J. Redick and Seth Curry have with him prior to now. And Nicolas Batum, after lacking a number of chunks of time as a result of harm earlier within the 12 months, has grow to be a staple in Philadelphia’s lineup who might excel alongside Embiid and Harris within the 76ers’ frontcourt. One unknown is the standing of guard De’Anthony Melton, a key two-way participant for Philadelphia and, if wholesome, Maxey’s associate within the workforce’s beginning backcourt. Melton has performed in simply 5 of the 76ers’ final 44 video games due to ongoing again points, and his return timetable stays unclear.



Legler: With a wholesome Embiid, Sixers’ ceiling is convention finals

Tim Legler breaks down how the return of Joel Embiid impacts the 76ers’ playoff hopes within the Japanese Convention.

Embiid’s affect on the East playoff image

Thursday’s matchup in Miami with the Warmth looms as a digital must-win for the 76ers to climb increased than eighth coming into the East play-in event. Miami additionally gained Tuesday, beating the New York Knicks, and can enter Thursday 1.5 video games up within the standings with a 2-1 lead within the season collection.

A Warmth win Thursday would imply they need to go simply 3-3 down the stretch to guarantee ending forward of Philadelphia by advantage of the head-to-head tiebreaker. (The Sixers, who misplaced the season collection 2-1 to the Indiana Pacers, fare no higher in a possible three-team tie.) Miami finishes with back-to-back house video games in opposition to the lottery-bound Toronto Raptors and is more likely to a minimum of break up its closing six video games.

If Philly wins to tie the season collection 2-2, that might push the tiebreaker to convention document. At 29-18, the Warmth are at the moment forward of the 76ers (27-21), however that is not settled but. Maybe extra importantly, a win Thursday would give Philadelphia a practical path to easily end forward of Miami within the standings.

After Miami, the 76ers end the season with 4 of their closing 5 video games in opposition to groups with bottom-eight information. Though the Orlando Magic have a greater document, Philadelphia would doubtless be favored within the remaining sport by advantage of enjoying at house with a wholesome Embiid.

If the Sixers win out, it is believable they may move each the Warmth and Pacers and keep away from the play-in altogether. Projections primarily based on ESPN’s Basketball Energy Index (BPI) confirmed Philly claiming a top-six seed in 6% of simulations earlier than Tuesday’s win.

The place the 76ers end has necessary implications for the highest half of the East standings as nicely. Not one of the convention’s high groups need to face the reigning MVP within the first spherical as a reward for incomes a top-three seed.

If Philadelphia wins the second play-in sport and claims the eighth seed it could imply a matchup in opposition to the top-seeded Boston Celtics for the second straight 12 months after the groups met within the 2023 convention semifinals. Count on renewed consideration on the potential of high seeds getting an opportunity to choose their opponents sooner or later.

Whereas the Sixers can be an atypically difficult No. 8 seed, Boston would certainly be favored in a first-round collection. So too would the No. 2 seed Milwaukee Bucks, albeit by a narrower margin. Whichever workforce finishes third out of the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks and Orlando Magic, might discover themselves a first-round underdog in opposition to Philadelphia with Embiid.

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