The Philadelphia 76ers were one of the best teams in the NBA throughout the season. They finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and boasted one of the best defensive units in the Association.
The Sixers played winning basketball even without their best player for a key stretch of the season. But, not having your superstar at 100% come playoff time could put an end to your campaign way earlier than expected.
That’s why Joel Embiid’s knee issues have been such a huge concern for the Sixers thus far. He’s been sucking it up and playing through pain but he’s been clearly limited regardless of his good performances.
Joel Embiid Admits He's Been Struggling With His Knee
Embiid was far from 100% last night. He even missed a point-blank range go-ahead layup to give his team a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, and went 0/12 in the second half of the game:
“Even before I went back to the locker room I felt like I didn’t have it. I guess it’s already known. There’s no need to explain myself anymore. I’m just trying to do the best I can," the Sixers big man told the media.
“I’ve coached a lot of games where guys haven’t had it all night but they’re still your guys,” Doc Rivers told ESPN, adding he would take Embiid "whether you've got it going or not.”
There’s no doubt that the Sixers will only go as far as Embiid can take them, especially against a hardnosed Atlanta Hawks team that’s ready to put in a fight night in and night out even if they’re trailing by double digits.
This series has been as excited as predicted and both teams have fought with bones and nails to protect their home court, but even if the Sixers end up advancing, they don’t seem to stand a chance without their best player at full strength.