By Dylan MacKinnon
The Sixers simply have no answer for the Heat without Joel Embiid. They drop game 2 and are now 0-2 heading back to Philly. There is hope Embiid can rejoin them for game 3, but nothing concrete yet. If he cannot, the Sixers are in big trouble. Because as games 1 and 2 show, they are missing the big man badly. There could not be a better case for Embiid being the most important player in the league than these first two games.
Embiid’s absence is being felt in every aspect of the game. On defense, they have no one who can contend with Bam. He shot 15-21 across both games. And without Embiid they were also dominated on the boards, at both ends. In-game 1 the Heat pulled down 10 more rebounds than them. They followed that up by outrebounding the Sixers by 10 again in game 2.
And on offense, the lack of an elite scorer inside is leading to everyone else being smothered when they get the ball. The offense simply has no identity without him. Too often a possession ends with a desperate shot attempt after they failed to get the ball inside. To make matters worse, the Sixers outside shooters have been abysmal. In the first series, they counted on players like Danny Green and Georges Niang to hit outside shots. So far in this series, those two are a combined 3-24 from deep. Green alone was 1-9 tonight.
As a team, they shot an ugly 26.7% from 3. Remarkably that is an improvement from game 1, where they shot 17%. If they shot from deep as they did in the Raptors series, that would have been at least an extra 9pts. Not enough to put the Sixers in the lead, but enough to at least make it a game. It would be hard to win with outside shooting like that if Embiid were playing. Without Embiid, they don’t stand a chance with shooting like this.
Even a strong late push by Tyrese Maxey was not enough to make a difference tonight. He went off for 34pts, on 12-22 shooting. But the Sixers still lost by double digits. In fact, you could say all 3 of the Sixers’ main guys outside Embiid stepped up tonight. Harden, Maxey, and Harris combined for 75 of the Sixers’ 103 pts. They shot a combined 27-54 (50%). Though they were just 4-19 from 3 (21.1%). But compare that to the rest of the team. Everyone else had 28pts while shooting 11-30 (36.7%), and 4-16 from deep.
There is no getting around it. The Sixers need Embiid. Even with Embiid on the floor, this team lacked depth. With him sidelined, it’s 3 players vs an entire team. They do not have anyone at the backup center who can make for an adequate starter. Jordan is unplayable, Bassey has no experience, and Millsap is not much better than Jordan. Paul Reed is the only playable backup center. But even he can only be relied on for about 10 minutes. They have no answer at center if Embiid can’t play.
Game 3 is Friday night. With Embiid, they will have a chance. But they have dug themselves a major hole. Without him, they will continue to have no answer for the Heat. The Big Man is dealing with recovery from a concussion, a lacerated thumb, and a fractured orbital bone. That along with what I am sure are a number of nagging injuries from the long season. But even all beat up, the Sixers desperately need him if they have any chance of making this a series.