MIAMI – After losing their first two games on the shores of Biscayne Bay to open this Eastern Conference semifinals against Heat without the superstar, the great man Joel Embiidone question looms over the 76ers as the series returns to City of Brotherly Love for Game 3 on Friday night:
Will Embiid be able to play in Game 3?
“I really don’t know,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said after Wednesday night’s 119-103 loss to Miami in the second game, which Philadelphia played again without Embiid due to a facial fracture and concussion he suffered against the Toronto Raptors last week. “We talked [Tuesday]and we talked [Wednesday].
“He looked good, as far as speech is concerned. But there are so many steps to go through, and I don’t think any of them have gone through right now. So we just have to wait and see.”
Without Embiid, Philadelphia was once again defeated in Game 2. Miami dominated the game, beating Philadelphia 44-34 and gaining 21 points a second chance.
Meanwhile, the 76ers again couldn’t buy a 3-point, go 8-for-30 in Game 2 to make the 76ers make a 14-for-64 out of a 3-point range through the first two games of this series.
“I liked the shots tonight,” Rivers said. “It simply came to our notice then.
“But 8-for-30, with the punches you get, it’s hard. Just look at the difference. They were 14-for-29. You can put the game there.”
The Heat, for their part, came back from their own rough shooting performance in the first game.
As in the first game, Philadelphia found ways to stay even without their superstar center for most of this competition. Tyrese Maxey scored 34 points, constantly breaking out in transition or breaking Miami’s defense to the edge. Tobias Harris had another strong two-way effect, finishing with 21 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals.
“They did a really good job putting two on the ball and trying to deny me basically the whole pitch, so it gave our guys more room to be aggressive if they were going to deny me wherever I was on the pitch,” Harden said.
“Give them credit. But I feel like if we shoot, and I keep saying that, but it opens the floor a little more, and now you have to respect our shooters.”
Something else would distract more attention from Harden: Embiid returns to the field.
And while Rivers declined to say whether Embiid will return, the Heat certainly expect the NBA finalist award winner for the second season in a row to take the floor in Game 3.
“That is changing dramatically,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, asked what Embiid’s return would mean for the series. “You’re talking about MVP talent, you know? So we’re just going to have to see.
“We knew this series was going to change and that it was going to change quite dramatically [if he returns]. It’s better to change that dramatically when we manage to score a few wins [first] but yes, he changed the equation quite a bit. “
The question now, however, is not only whether Embiid will be able to play in Game 3 – but also whether his return will be enough to tip this series in Philadelphia’s favor. In addition to Embiid’s injuries, Georges Niang has favored a knee in Game 2. Rivers has admitted that Niang has been playing at less than 100% for some time.
Matisse Thybullewho was a part-time participant in Philadelphia’s first round of the series in Toronto for failing to meet Canadian vaccine requirements, looked insultingly lost. Danny Green it is now 2-for-14 from a range of 3 points in the series.
Embiid’s presence would certainly help reduce the pressure from his teammates and would clearly give Harden more room to act. But it is far from certain that he will return 100% even if he can return.
“If Joel’s back, that’s great,” Maxey said. “If he doesn’t come back then you have to keep fighting. It’s a fight. There will be another fight on Friday. I think [one thing] which we subtract [these games] is to go for them. Attack them. Don’t dance, don’t play ball in front of the boys. Go straight at them, go downhill and then when they help, scatter it to our archers or end up over the top. “
Whether Embiid is on the field or not, Rivers said his team will be ready to fight to return to the series in front of a home crowd.
“That’s why it’s a movie and that’s what adaptations are for,” Rivers said.
“And we’ll be ready for Game 3.”
ESPN’s Nick Friedell contributed to this report.