Embiid’s Return Gives Sixers a Playoff Chance

by Marc Narducci | Apr 12, 2024
Embiid’s Return Gives Sixers a Playoff Chance
Nobody should be sleeping on the 76ers. Regardless, if they have to enter the NBA postseason as a play-in team, or earn the No. 6 seed and stay out of the play-in, this will be a dangerous team.

Do you think that any team with a better record, including Boston, will relish playing the Sixers with Joel Embiid back in the lineup?

That is not to say that the Sixers would take down Boston, which would be a solid favorite against any Eastern Conference team, but Embiid’s presence doesn’t make beating the Sixers a certainty. 

We know how Embiid has struggled in past postseasons, mainly due to injury or illness. This year, he is well rested, having missed eight weeks after suffering a torn meniscus on Jan. 30 in a 119-107 loss at Golden State.

While he still isn’t in top basketball shape, he is getting there and even Embiid at less than 100 percent has a profound impact on the Sixers winning.

At the beginning of the week, the Sixers were 29-8 (.784) with Embiid in the lineup.

During his first three games back, the Sixers won all three games and Embiid was averaging 27.7 points in 28.2 minutes. He didn’t play in Sunday’s 133-126 double OT win at the San Antonio Spurs, which was the second game of a back-to-back. 

And again, one can see how winded Embiid gets. He is far from being at his best, but good enough to make the Sixers an entirely different team. 

Unlike past years, there are not the high expectations for the Sixers. Everybody believes that Boston will emerge in the Eastern Conference. 

Then again, that same belief was held last year and the Celtics lost in seven games to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. 

Boston is a better team than last year, but again, the Celtics have to do more than just show up to beat the Sixers.

Remember, the Sixers had Boston on the ropes last year, with a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals before losing the last two games, including a blowout defeat in Game 7.

That said, the Sixers have some firepower around Embiid. Tyrese Maxey was a first-time all-star this year and his performance in last week’s 109-105 win at Miami, is an indication of how he can perform in the most pressured situations. 

That might have been the best win of the year for the Sixers, considering that they are trying to surpass Miami (not to mention Indiana) in the standings. 

Maxey had 37 points, hitting 15-of-26 from the field, including 5-of-14 from three-point range, while making both of his free throws. He also dealt 11 assists, grabbed seven rebounds and committed just one turnover. He was a plus-26 for the game. 

Two games later, with Embiid out, Maxey scored a career-high 52 points in the double OT win at San Antonio.  

Those were two vintage performances and showed that he can indeed be the type of dependable No. 2 option that a team needs in the postseason. 


Author: Marc Narducci


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