Bad timing to be without Joel Embiid

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Bad timing to be without Joel Embiid

This would not be the best time for the Sixers to be without Joel Embiid.

His status moving forward is uncertain as he battles back tightness. Embiid sat out Tuesday's loss to the Kings and could miss their next two games against the Raptors, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Embiid is continuing to receive treatment, and as of Wednesday morning, no official decision had been announced on his availability.

It would not come as a surprise if Embiid missed additional time. He played 49 minutes in Friday's triple-overtime loss to the Thunder — that's basically two games worth of playing time. Embiid clocked those major minutes one game after logging 39 against the Timberwolves in OT and two games after sitting out against the Pelicans because of the back issue. 

The team is proceeding with caution, as expected. The goal is the playoffs, and while the Sixers need to win every game they can at this point in the season, they also will need Embiid healthy enough to be on the court down the stretch.

If Embiid is not a go against the Raptors, the Sixers' already-challenging opponent becomes that much more difficult. The 20-8 Raptors have won nine of their last 10 games. The Sixers, on the other hand, have dropped seven of their last eight.

Others stepping up
There is no way to duplicate the impact Embiid makes, and it's just as hard to fill the void of his 24.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. The Sixers knew going into this season Embiid would not be available every game, and so his teammates have to step up. This is an opportunity for players like Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Robert Covington to be more aggressive and consistent in the starting unit. (JJ Redick's status is TBD after leaving Tuesday's game because of his hamstring.) See more on the need for the offense here.

An Embiid-less game also requires the bench to amp up its energy and try to contain any lead the starters build.

Limiting backcourt duo
When you think Raptors, you think Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. And the Sixers certainly will be thinking of them, too. They have learned firsthand how the pair of guards can easily run up the score. DeRozan dropped 30 points, including 14 from the line, in their first meeting. Philadelphia native Lowry averaged over 20 points at the Wells Fargo Center last season. The pair is combining for nearly 40 points per game this season.

Protecting the paint
The Raptors have averaged 54.0 points in the paint in their last three wins, and rank fourth in the NBA on the season (48.4). The Sixers, meanwhile, gave up 48 points to the Kings in that area Tuesday. They will have to be mindful of Jonas Valanciunas, who left their last meeting early (ankle). The center is coming off a 13-point, 16-rebound double-double in the Raptors' last game. 

Winning at home
The Sixers have to take advantage of every game they play at the Wells Fargo Center. They have the energy of a hungry home crowd behind them, an arena full of fans eager to play the sixth-man role in a win. The need for a home win is heightened by the fact the Sixers will play the following game in Toronto, a challenging road environment where the Raptors are an impressive 11-1 this season.

Rob's Rants — Heat are now most hated NBA team

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Rob's Rants — Heat are now most hated NBA team

The reasons were all on full display Thursday in Miami. From the Justise Winslow’s goggles stomp, to Dwyane Wade’s take-down of Justin Anderson, to Goran Dragic’s flexing, to Kelly Olynyk’s cheap shots and man-bun, to Hassan Whiteside’s laughable belief that he is even in the same league as Joel Embiid, the Miami Heat have vaulted to the top of my current NBA hate list.

That spot had been reserved by the Boston Celtics since I was a kid. Red Auerbach, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, cheap-shot artist, Danny Ainge, and that towel-waving weasel, M.L. Carr, were an easy team to despise. Not to mention the arrogance of their fanbase. They were the Sixers' chief rival in those days. The difference with those Celtics squads and the Heat is, those Boston teams were great. This Miami team because of their lack of talent must play a physical, often cheap, dirty style. 

But the beauty of Game 3 of this first-round series was the Sixers beat them at their own physical game. Thanks in large part to the return of the masked man, Joel Embiid. 

Let’s start with Winslow purposely attempting to break Embiid’s goggles that popped off of his facial mask. The ref was standing right there; how that is not a technical at the very least is beyond comprehension. Then there’s Wade, a future Hall of Famer, no doubt. But a bigger whiner you won’t find and that is saying something in the NBA. Wade cries more than an infant teething. He should have been ejected or issued at the very least the only technical for his tangle with Anderson. The double technical was a classic case of pedigreed player vs. a deep guy.  

Olynyk is a complete hack and in the vein of Wade, never thinks he commits a foul. Whiteside is no match for Embiid. He can only play one end and when Embiid is on the floor it’s clear he can’t even handle him on that one end.

It was thoroughly enjoyable to watch the Sixers silence the faux Miami crowd that is more interested in showing up overpriced, garish clothes and being seen than what is happening on the hardwood.       

It won’t be easy by any stretch but here’s hoping the Sixers can send this bunch packing in five. If Embiid stays healthy, the Sixers advance but between then and now, expect much of the same tactics from Miami. And another layer to the Heat hate.

Justin Anderson downplays Game 3 scuffle with Dwyane Wade

Justin Anderson downplays Game 3 scuffle with Dwyane Wade

Amir Johnson was getting dressed at the locker next to Justin Anderson when the veteran center looked up with a calm request.

“Tell the truth,” Johnson said with a smile.

That’s because Anderson was attempting to downplay his second-quarter run-in with Heat guard Dwyane Wade during the Sixers’ 128-108 Game 3 win Thursday in Miami (see game recap).

“It’s just a common foul. I’m not tripping about it,” Anderson said.

Anderson may not have wanted to make a big deal over the incident, but the foul was anything but common.

With 10:26 on the clock in the second quarter, Anderson locked up with Wade on the defensive end. Anderson pushed off as he attempted to front Wade in the post when the three-time champion latched onto the Sixers guard’s arm and flung him out of bounds. Anderson fell down into a couple photographers before getting up to confront Wade. Both players were separated and assessed taunting technical fouls for the play.

“I don’t remember,” Anderson said. “It was just a tough play for both of us. Just continue to move on. Next play.”

The skirmish was just one example of the heightened physicality in the series. Game 3 witnessed 56 total personal fouls and six technicals.

Despite playing just two minutes in the series prior to Thursday night, Anderson knew he was walking into a battle.

“They hit us in Game 1. They were physical from the start,” said Anderson, who had six points and four rebounds during nine minutes of action in Game 3. “I try to take every opportunity that I’m given. Watching the game for the first two games from the bench, I kind of recognized that the physicality was real high. I just mentally prepared myself that if I go in I’ve got to hit first or they’re going to hit me.”

So is it safe to say Anderson is the Sixers’ new enforcer?

“Like in hockey? Nah,” he said. “I just play hard. I play hard and make sure I do whatever I can to help our team win. That’s all that really matters.”