Sixers Have No Plans To Shut Down Joel Embiid

The Sixers won’t consider shutting down Joel Embiid after his second injury scare in eight days, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

The reigning MVP, who missed more than two months following meniscus surgery on his left knee in late January, collapsed to the court with pain in the knee after a spectacular play late in the first half on Saturday. He was eventually able to slowly walk to the locker room and was cleared to return after intermission.

“I knew when I went in at halftime that they were checking him out,” coach Nick Nurse said. “And that he was up and moving. And they did say we are seeing. They didn’t rule him out yet. They just took him all the way to the end there to get him ruled back in.”

Embiid, who didn’t speak with reporters after the game, was injured with 2:37 left in the second quarter when he ducked under Mitchell Robinson, threw the ball off the backboard and finished the play with a highlight dunk (video link). He landed on his left leg before collapsing in pain. It was similar to a play against Orlando last week when he fell to the court after a drive to the basket late in the first half, but returned after being checked out by team doctors.

“It was a great play. It was an amazing play,” Kelly Oubre told reporters, including Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. “Oh, man, it’s scary. Our bodies are what we use as our vehicles out here. It’s tough, and he’s seven-foot, 300 pounds. … It’s tough, man. I couldn’t even imagine being seven feet and being able to move like a guard and do the things that I can do but being that big. It’s tough, but he’s a warrior.”

Embiid’s health is obviously going to play a huge role in deciding the series with the Knicks, as he posted 29 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals in Saturday’s Game 1 loss. The Sixers were plus-14 in his 37 minutes on the court, but minus-21 in the other 11 minutes. However, Bontemps notes that he was much less effective after the injury, shooting just 2-of-11 from the field in the second half.

There’s no word yet on Embiid’s availability for Game 2, which will take place Monday night in New York, but there were no plans Saturday night for him to undergo more medical imaging on the knee, sources tell Vorkunov. He adds that Embiid was able to leave the arena without a limp.

Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer cautions that the Sixers need to be smart about how they use Embiid going forward because the strain he’s putting on his knee ligaments could result in a long-term injury. But Embiid has expressed a desire to keep playing, and it appears Nurse and team officials will honor that.

“I don’t think so,” Nurse responded when asked about the possibility of sidelining Embiid. “He’s really a warrior and he’s battling. I think he absolutely wants to play. Let’s see how he turns out here tonight.”

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