If Monday was any indication, the Philadelphia 76ers could be in for a quick exit from the second round of the NBA playoffs against the Miami Heat.
Philly struggled in just about every facet of the game, and despite being competitive for a brief stretch of the contest, it fell to the Heat, 106-92.
The Sixers’ franchise player and possible league MVP, Joel Embiid, is out indefinitely with a fractured finger on his shooting hand, a concussion, and an orbital fracture.
They are hoping to have him back later in the series.
ESPN Sources: Joel Embiid won’t travel for Games 1 and 2 in Miami, but there’s optimism he could return as soon as either Game 3 or 4 in Philadelphia. He needs to clear concussion protocols and see doctor mid-week on his orbital fracture. More on NBA Countdown at 12:30 ET on ABC.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 1, 2022
Although they have ample talent, they simply don’t have enough without Embiid to have any chance of defeating the top-seeded squad in the Eastern Conference in a best-of-seven.
Embiid Means Everything To Philly
Embiid is a truly dominant big man in a league that many criticize for lacking such players.
He led the NBA in scoring this season by averaging 30.6 points per game while also putting up 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 blocked shots a contest.
In six games against the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the postseason, Embiid put up 26.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game despite dealing with his finger injury for a good amount of the series.
Joel Embiid doing everything he can to wake the Sixers up! pic.twitter.com/Q2I2HefnJk
— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) April 26, 2022
He combines the modern-day ball-handling skills of a Hakeem Olajuwon with the old-school low post game and strength of Moses Malone, the Hall of Fame center who led Philly to its last world championship in 1983.
When a team loses a player like that, it will be in lots of trouble come playoff time, no matter how talented it is otherwise.
Yes, the Sixers have another superstar in James Harden, but he simply won’t be enough.
Harden Is Not Pulling His Weight
Just a couple of years after going on one of the most prolific three-year spans in NBA history, Harden is coming up small when the Sixers need him most.
After being sent to the Delaware Valley by the Brooklyn Nets in a mid-season trade, he shot just 40.2 percent and 32.6 percent from 3-point range in 21 regular season games, and in the series versus the Raptors, he hit just 40.5 percent of his shot attempts.
On Monday against the Heat, the 2018 regular season MVP scored just 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the field.
Harden has a history of not coming through in key playoff games, but now he is not coming through in just about every game.
Miami’s strategy is to slow the pace to a crawl, and under normal circumstances, perhaps the Sixers could deal with that style of play thanks to Embiid’s inside dominance.
But without him, they are largely impotent in a half-court game, at least as long as Harden continues to play as if he’s washed up.
Philly Needs Embiid On ‘D’
In addition to all he does offensively, Embiid is also Philly’s anchor on the defensive end, and without him, it simply lacks a margin of error.
Harden has never been a good defender, and even though backup guard Matisse Thybulle is a good defender, the team’s starting lineup simply doesn’t have enough defensive ability to contain the likes of Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro.
Herro had 25 points and seven assists in Game 1, and he could be in for a big series.