By Dylan MacKinnon
The Sixers begin round 2 vs the Heat tonight. Sadly, as we learned Friday night, they will be without Joel Embiid. He fractured an orbital bone and suffered a concussion after taking an elbow to the face from Raptors Forward Pascal Siakam in Game 6. However, the Sixers received some potentially good news over the weekend in regards to Embiid.
While Embiid will not travel to Miami for Games 1 or 2, he could be back as soon as Game 3. He will be re-evaluated on Wednesday. If he can be cleared from concussion protocols, he may be able to play through the Orbital injury with the protection of a face mask. He of course played with a mask the last time he fractured an orbital bone back in 2018. That time the injury required surgery and he missed the end of the season and the first couple of playoff games. But this time, it is not expected the injury will require surgery. We will not have a clear answer until Wednesday for his status past Game 2. But there is certainly optimism he will be able to play game 3.
The question becomes what do they do in Games 1 and 2 to replace him. The last time they played the Heat, Embiid and Harden sat out, Paul Milsap started, and DeAndre Jordan played off the bench. But since then Doc Rivers’ use of the backup centers has changed. Paul Reed got the entirety of the minutes at Center off the Bench in round 1 vs the Raptors. Additionally, Charles Bassey is off the injured list and could be available. When asked how he will use centers, Doc suggested it could be a mix of all 4.
“We may need all four guys. Even if it’s to burn minutes… (The Heat) shoot free throws well, so we don’t want to play the whole series in the penalty. And two, getting some of our guys in foul trouble. Bam (Adebayo) does a great job of that. Jimmy Butler may be the best at it in the series now without Joel. And Kyle Lowry does it. So we just have to be very smart with how we plan our bigs.” -Doc Rivers
They did manage to beat the Heat once this season without Joel Embiid. Both Embiid and Harden sat out the last time they played the Heat on March 21st. Maxey’s 28pts carried the Sixers to a 113-106 win. It was an uncharacteristic great night from the Sixers bench, who scored 46pts. Shake Milt0n had 20 of those points, and Furkan Korkmaz had 18. They got only 7pts from the center position, but Milsap played impressive defense, and Jordan pulled down 8 boards. They held the Heat to just 30% shooting from 3, and outrebounded them 45-34, with 11 offensive rebounds.
Embiid is not the only star out in this game. The Heat will be without Kyle Lowry with a hamstring injury. Gabe Vincent started games 4 and 5 in Round 1 for the Heat in Lowry’s place. It is expected he will continue to get the starting minutes. Vincent has a reputation for going off when playing the Sixers. He averaged just 8.7pts per game in the regular season but averaged 21pts per game vs the Sixers while shooting over 60% from 3.
On top of Lowry being out, several Heat players are questionable to play tonight. Jimmy Butler is nursing a knee injury which kept him out of Game 5 vs the Hawks. Additionally, Tyler Herro (illness), Markieff Morris (Illness), Caleb Martin (ankle), PJ Tucker (Calf), and Max Strus (Hamstring), are all questionable to play tonight. As of now, they are all expected to play through it.
The game will tip around 7:30 tonight. Our coverage begins at 6 pm with an extended Pre-Game Show hosted by Devon Givens. Tom McGinnis is on the call. Devon will return after the game with In the Post, where he will react to the results and take your calls.