Times are tough for Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid. Not only is the big man dealing with a torn thumb ligament, which he suffered during Game 3 of the first-round series against the Toronto Raptors, but he’s also battling an orbital fracture and a mild concussion after taking an elbow to the face during Game 6.
The latter injuries kept him off the floor for the first two games of the second-round series against the Miami Heat. Once Embiid was cleared out of the NBA’s concussion protocol last Thursday, he was on track to play in Game 3.
Sure enough, Embiid took the floor for 36 minutes last Friday night. Since then, he hasn’t missed a game. Embiid’s presence offered the Sixers a significant boost and helped them churn out two wins to tie the series up.
Unfortunately, the win streak stopped during Game 5 in Miami. Overall, the Sixers had a lousy showing on Tuesday night. Doc Rivers and several players called out the team’s lack of physicality and effort as a whole against the Heat.
Meanwhile, Joel Embiid looked like a guy that had several injuries bothering him from the start of the game until he was pulled midway through the fourth quarter.
“I felt coming in, I had the right mindset,” Embiid said after the game. “I had the right mindset about what I wanted to accomplish and as far as myself and the team to try and get the win.” Unfortunately for Embiid, mindset is only half the battle in this case.
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“There’s a lot going on,” Embiid continued. “Sometimes, your body and whatever is going on, as you know, just won’t allow you to be yourself. In those moments, you just gotta keep pushing and hope for the best. But at this point, it’s all about just being there and just keep pushing.”
Embiid’s attempt to keep pushing through the pain on Tuesday night was admirable, but he couldn’t overcome the setbacks he’s been battling. As the big man struggled in Game 5, he garnered criticism, which made him feel like he was in a losing situation, personally.
“This is a lose-lose situation for me,” Embiid explained. “If I don’t play, I probably get called soft, and if I play and I play bad, they probably come up with a bunch of stuff, ‘he’s just not good enough.’ It’s all about not getting too high or too low and just going out there and really trying to dig very deep and try to do whatever I can.”
Philly’s five-time All-Star won’t be one-hundred percent healthy for the remainder of the postseason. So, every time he takes the floor moving forward, Embiid understands he might not be able to display the best version of himself. Therefore, he’s aiming to block out the outside noise and just work as hard as his body will allow him to.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.
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