No Sweep for Philly; Embiid Injuries Knee in Game 4 Loss
The Sixers were hopeful they’d be able to defeat the Wizards in Game 4 to complete a clean sweep in their first round series. If that was the best case scenario, it’s fair to say that what actually transpired was much closer to absolute worst case. Not only did the Wizards manage to grab a game from Philly, winning 122-114, but the catalyst of this Sixer’s team, Joel Embiid, exited the contest after just the first quarter with right knee soreness.
The source of Embiid’s injury, whatever it may be, was very likely a fall he took after losing his balance in a dangerous arial state. Embiid’s immediate grimace provided no illusions about the amount of pain he was in, even as he gritted it out in the first quarter (and even remained quite productive). Coach Rivers said that Embiid will undergo an MRI on Tuesday and his availability for Wednesday’s game 5 is entirely uncertain at this time. As the Sixers aren’t finding themselves in a desperate must-win situation, I’d bet Philly plays it safe with Embiid, whose health is a priority for this team to compete for a title.
Meanwhile, neither Tobias Harris nor Ben Simmons were able to step up in the absence of the Sixers alpha. Harris’s 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists look impressive…but his shooting was absolutely putrid throughout this game. He connected on just 33% of his attempts from the field and 20% of his long range tries. Meanwhile, the Wizards chose to employ the embarrassing hack-a-Simmons strategy down the stretch, daring Ben to start making some free throws (he went 5-11 from the charity stripe in this game, his best rate of the series). The subtle effect that Embiid has as an unguardable force on offense is that his presence allows his teammates to thrive in their niche roles. But without such a steadying force the Sixers found themselves unable to match points with Bradely Beal and a Wizards roster that shot the three incredibly well (with the exception of Westbrook’s 0-4).
For some positive news, rookie Tyrese Maxey looked terrific all game. He earned 22 minutes off the bench, taking full advantage of that time to the tune of 15 points on 6-12 shooting and 2-3 from behind the arc. Rivers chose to bring 7 different players off the bench in this contest and it still remains a mystery when and how they will trim their rotation as they advance further in the playoffs.
Philadelphia will next try to close the series when they match up with the Wizards on Wednesday evening. There already exist jokes that the Sixers should tank a few games with the idea of earning more recovery time for Joel Embiid. While that speculation is firmly in comic territory at the moment, drastic news on the Embiid injury front could dramatically change how Sixers fans feel going forward.