Joel Embiid injury update: 76ers star questionable for Game 1, per report; Doc Rivers optimistic he plays

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The Philadelphia 76ers could start their semifinal playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks without MVP candidate Joel Embiid. The star big man’s status is still unknown ahead of Sunday’s Game 1. The team announced earlier this week that Embiid has a small meniscus tear in his right knee, but head coach Doc Rivers seemed to be at least somewhat optimistic on Friday that he could be ready to go for Game 1.

“He’s got to go through his treatment,” Rivers said. “As far as when we were doing shooting and stuff like that, he looked great. It’s too early [to rule him out]. I don’t want to say one way or the other. We’ll just find that out.”

While the official injury report has not been released yet, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Saturday evening that the 76ers will list Embiid as questionable and his status will be determined after the big man goes through treatment and works out prior to Game 1 on Sunday afternoon.

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Embiid suffered the injury in the Sixers’ Game 4 loss in the first round against the Washington Wizards. He left late in the first quarter after taking a hard fall on a drive to the basket where he went up toward the rim and was blocked by Robin Lopez. Embiid came down hard on his right heel and then fell onto his back. He spent the entirety of the second quarter of that game back in the locker room, and at halftime he was ruled out by the Sixers for the remainder of the game with right knee soreness. He then sat out for Game 5 as the Sixers closed out the series.

You can see the play where the injury occurred below: 

Philadelphia was able to manage against a short-handed Wizards team in the first round without Embiid just fine. But against the Hawks, who looked incredibly dominant in their first-round series win against the New York Knicks, not having him will be a significant blow. It’s difficult to tell the severity of Embiid’s injury, considering players who suffer meniscus tears typically end up being out for some chunk of time. 

In last year’s playoffs, Dallas Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis suffered a meniscus tear which sidelined him for the final two games of their first-round playoff series and required surgery in the offseason that delayed his start to the 2020-21 season. That’s not to say Embiid’s injury is anything like Porzingis’, and given that he’s been practicing with the team should be a positive sign that he could return in the postseason.

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