Joel Embiid took a shot to the face that not even his mask could help him absorb. He went down in a heap and stayed on the court in pain until he could compose himself.
Game 5 would get worse in so many ways for Embiid and the 76ers.
There was the Heat’s 35-point win that pushed them to the brink of a series win. Embiid was completely banged up. His thumb. His eye.
Add a bruised ego.
Embid, the NBA scoring champion, craved the MVP award that went to Denver’s Nikola Jokic for the second straight season. Embiid was an MVP finalist for the second straight season — but fell short again of the NBA’s highest regular-season individual honor.
“That’s two years in a row I put myself in that position,” Embiid said. “It didn’t happen. It’s almost like at this point, it’s whatever. Last year, I campaigned about it. This year, I answered questions when I was asked. In the next few years until I retire, to me, I don’t know what else I have to do to win it. It’s whatever. It’s about focusing, not that I wasn’t focusing in the bigger picture, but it’s really time to really put all my energy into the bigger picture, which is to win the whole thing.”
Hold up, retire in the next few years?
OK, that’s a topic for down the road, or at least the end of this season which could come for the Sixers as early as Thursday night. The Heat hold a 3-2 series lead after a blowout Game 5 win. The Phoenix Suns also lead the Dallas Mavericks 3-2 on the strength of a 30-point Game 5 victory.
The good news for the 76ers and Mavericks, Game 6s are both at home.
The percentages are not in their favor.
Teams in NBA history that win Game 5 for a 3-2 series lead wind up advancing 82.2% of the time.
Embiid and the 76ers, and Luka Doncic and the Mavericks look to stave off elimination and move on with Game 7 wins and advance to the conference finals.
The home team has won every game in both series. The Suns lost in the NBA Finals last season.
“At a certain point, it just comes down to grit. Want to,” Suns guard Chris Paul said.
HEAT AT 76ERS
Heat lead 3-2. Game 6. 7 p.m. EDT, ESPN
— NEED TO KNOW: Blowout city. The 76ers lost Game 1 by 14 points, Game 2 by 16 and Game 3 by 35. Yikes. How low could they go if they lose again to Miami? Should the Heat build an early double-digit lead, keep an eye on the Sixers. Will they let the game get out of hand or put up a fight and force Game 7?
— KEEP AN EYE ON: James Harden. “The Beard” showed in Game 5 a sensational Game 4 was more an aberration in his short tenure with the Sixers than something to build on for the postseason. Harden has 46 turnovers in the postseason and was a whopping minus-29 in Game 5.
— INJURY WATCH: Easy. Embiid. If injuries continue to wear down the center, the Heat will likely win the series. And history says, Miami will win in a blowout.
— PRESSURE IS ON: Let’s flip a coin. Heads, 76ers. Tails, 76ers. Hey, it’s the 76ers! Lose and the season is over. Win, and maybe, just maybe, a healthy-ish Sixers team can pull out a Game 7 win on the road. After all, the Hawks did it to Philly in the second round last season.
SUNS AT MAVERICKS
Suns lead 3-2. Game 6. 9:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN
— NEED TO KNOW: The Mavericks have been sloppy. Dallas, which had a season-low nine assists in Game 5, committed a mind-boggling 12 turnovers in a third quarter (33-14) that decided Game 5 and could end up deciding the series. The Suns had a 17-0 run in the quarter.
— KEEP AN EYE ON: Doncic. He was terrible from 3-point range again (2 of 8 after 1 of 10 in Game 4). The difference was, he assisted on eight of the 20 Dallas 3s in Game 4. He had 11 assists in Game 4, two in Game 5.
— INJURY WATCH: Suns F Torrey Craig (right elbow contusion) was available to play in Game 5.
— PRESSURE IS ON: Dallas. The supporting cast failed Dallas again, or Dallas failed in getting them involved. Doncic and Jalen Brunson combined for 40 shots. The secondary scorers who have been so important in various victories combined for just 16. Spencer Dinwiddie’s struggles continues. He was great in a couple of games without Doncic in the regular season, and good in the first three games against Utah. Since, he’s averaging 8.5 points and shooting 34%. ___