MIAMI (AP) — Joel Embiid feared this would be the case. Turns out, he was right.
The Philadelphia 76ers announced Friday night that Embiid — the NBA scoring champion and an MVP finalist — has a right orbital fracture and a mild concussion. Those injuries, for now anyway, have him listed as out on the injury report and will keep him there for the foreseeable future.
The 76ers open an Eastern Conference semifinal series at Miami on Monday night.
The injuries stem from a hit Embiid took with 3:58 left of Thursday night’s game in Toronto, when the 76ers were up by 29 points and well on their way to getting an East first-round-clinching win over the Raptors. He got hit in the face by a driving Pascal Siakam, and immediately took several steps back in obvious pain.
Embiid checked out moments later. Now, nobody knows when he’ll play again. He sat down for a postgame interview with NBA TV immediately following the game, and one of the first questions he got was about how he was feeling.
“I think he might have broken my face,” Embiid said. “It’s all good. It’s the playoffs.”
Thing is, it wasn’t all good. And Embiid’s diagnosis was spot on.
Barring a significant change, it would appear Embiid won’t be able to start this series — at minimum. A similar fracture, to his left orbital bone, kept him out for about three weeks late in the 2017-18 season. He needed surgery and missed 10 games, including the first two games of a playoff series against the Heat.
The amount of time he misses now is, obviously, contingent on the severity of whatever is fractured in the bones around Embiid's eye. He wore a specially designed mask in 2018 when he returned, even after surgery. The 76ers did not mention surgery in their statement Friday night, which may indicate one isn't required this time. And there's also the issue of getting through the NBA's concussion protocol, though that may only take a few days.
Embiid led the 76ers with averages of 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds and assists and 1.5 blocks per game during the regular season. And even though he’s bothered by a right thumb ligament injury that will require offseason surgery, he also averaged 26.2 points and 11.3 rebounds in the six games against the Raptors.
He’s one of three finalists for MVP, along with Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. And earlier Friday, when the Heat began practice in preparation for the series with the 76ers, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra raved about Embiid.
“He’s extremely skilled,” Spoelstra said. “You’re talking about somebody that has great physicality and size that can punish you in that regard. But he also has finesse, he has shooting ability, deep range on his shot-making, he’s got touch that’s uncanny in the paint. And then you have that element of also being able to create and make open shots for other guys, but also be able to draw fouls at any point if you lose concentration.”
Embiid — from Cameroon — was the first international player to win the scoring title. Embiid also was the first center to win the scoring crown since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-2000.