Last night, the Sixers started off a 4-game road trip with a matchup against the Bulls in Chicago. Our own Devon Givens previewed the game on Wednesday, a game which would not include James Harden due to Achilles soreness. Luckily, the Sixers wouldn’t need their starting point guard, as the team scored the first 17 points of the night and never looked back, ultimately throttling the Bulls. In fact, Joel Embiid did not even play in the 2nd half of the contest, due to what the TV broadcast initially said was the score difference.
Sixers Tell @NBCSPhilly Joel Embiid won’t return because of Sixers being up 30+ points
Joel Embiid had 12 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds in first half.
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) March 23, 2023
It made sense considering the Sixers have a road back-to-back on Friday and Saturday against the Warriors and Suns, two dangerous Western Conference teams. After the game, though, reports surfaced that Embiid is actually experiencing mild right calf tightness, which contributed to his absence in the 2nd half on Wednesday.
So, Harden has Achilles soreness, and Embiid has calf tightness. All we’re missing is our pets’ heads falling off, right?? Well, the good news, at least on the Embiid front, is that the big man’s issues seem to be more maintenance than injury. It already seems like he should be available for this weekend’s West Coast games, so we can all take a deep sigh of relief for the time being. Harden, on the other hand, is in a troubling spot. Last year, he was significantly hampered down the stretch with a nagging hamstring injury. Now, with only 10 games remaining in the regular season, this Achilles issue could be minor, or it could be another problem looming that affects the Sixers chances in the postseason. Without James Harden playing at a high level, this team is going to have a very difficult time advancing out of the 2nd round, much less got to or win an NBA Finals.
That all being said, there’s a chance that both of these issues fully resolve themselves before the playoffs. The Sixers would love the 2 seed, but realistically, they shouldn’t fall anywhere lower than the 3rd spot in the Eastern Conference Standings. I think we all would much rather the Sixers be a fully healthy 3 seed than risk injury to Joel Embiid or James Harden to try and track down the 2 seed. If that means resting your superstars here and there down the stretch, it’s not ideal, but it may be necessary. The NBA regular season is a war of attrition, and right now, the Sixers have to be very careful they don’t lose that war this late into the year.