Report: Embiid to Miss Game 4 Against Nets With Knee Injury

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) grimaces after falling to the floor during game three of the 2023 NBA playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers will be shorthanded heading into Game 4 against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday afternoon. Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN on Friday evening reported Joel Embiid suffered a sprained right knee in the Sixers’ Game 3 victory.

Embiid seemed to suffer the injury in the middle of the third quarter of Game 3. He contested a Cameron Johnson layup, with both himself and Johnson hitting the floor afterwards. The big fella came up walking gingerly, and the Sixers called a timeout.

Embiid did stay on the floor coming out of the timeout. Thankfully it does not sound like the injury is overly serious. It is unfortunate to see Embiid’s history of postseason injuries continue. This is the third consecutive postseason he has gotten hurt. Last season he suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb and a broken face in the first round against the Toronto Raptors. He suffered a meniscus injury in the first round against the Washington Wizards back in the 2020-21 season.

The report does also state there is optimism Embiid, if the series is still going, could return to the court as soon as early next week. The Sixers currently hold a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Nets. There is no reason to see the team rush Embiid back onto the floor.

The best case scenario for the Sixers and Embiid is for the team to complete the sweep over the Nets with a win in Game 4. In that scenario, Embiid would have a full week to rest and recover from this injury. The earliest day the second round can start is Saturday April 29.

Philadelphia has done a good job surviving this season in the games Embiid missed. They went 11-5 in 16 games the big fella missed this regular season. However, the postseason is a completely different animal.

The Sixers have a few options for how they will elect to replace Embiid in the lineup. They could go with a small-ball lineup, moving P.J. Tucker to center and inserting De’Anthony Melton into the starting lineup. Tucker is having a good postseason thus far, averaging 3 points, 7.7 rebounds (3.3 on offensive glass), 3 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Three-guard lineups containing James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Melton have also generally had positive results this season.

Their other option is to insert Paul Reed into the starting lineup. Reed plays with energy while bringing a good combination of rebounding and defensive ability. He should not have much of an issue against the Nets, whose tallest player is Nic Claxton (6-foot-11).

In all likelihood, head coach Doc Rivers will choose to mix and match things depending on both what is working and what the Nets are presenting them on the floor. It would not be a surprise to see a small amount of minutes for either Dewayne Dedmon or Montrezl Harrell as well. How Rivers elects to piece together the center minutes in Game 4 will be fascinating to watch.

It will be interesting to see how Embiid’s absence affects what the Nets do on both ends of the floor. Their defensive strategy this series revolved around doubling Embiid and playing with a lot of physicality. Offensively they mixed in a lot of small-ball lineups in order to maximize the amount of shooters they have on the floor.

The Sixers still have enough talent, even without Embiid, to have a fair chance able at ending the Nets’ season. However, their road to sweeping the series is undoubtedly going to be more difficult due to Embiid’s absence. Game 4 tips off on Saturday at 1 p.m.

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