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Health updates on Joel Embiid, Robert Covington

PORTLAND, Ore. — Joel Embiid will not play Saturday against the Nuggets in Denver and is expected to suit up Sunday to take on the Suns in Phoenix.

He is not cleared to play in back-to-back games because of his medical restriction. The Sixers are 1-7 this season without him.

"The ability to give him more rest," Brett Brown said Friday of the decision. "It's related to his health."

Embiid played 35 minutes in Thursday's loss to the Trail Blazers. He will have two days between games instead of just one. Embiid will not join the team in Denver, instead traveling from Portland to Phoenix to put less strain on his body. Embiid has been dealing with back tightness.

"We intend on trying to not move him around," Brown said. "We don't see it being smart. To just get him to one spot, to send a coach with him and continue to get his skill and his sweat, we feel is the smartest thing, again, tied into health."

The Sixers will wait until Saturday to determine Robert Covington's availability. The starting small forward injured his left middle finger and left Thursday's game. X-rays were negative. He did light shooting Friday, a maintenance day for the Sixers, and will receive treatment the following day.

Justin Anderson, who was cleared to return from shin splints on Thursday, is doubtful for Saturday because of the injury. Markelle Fultz went through his usual individualized work as part of his rehab (right shoulder).

The Sixers will be facing a big (literally) challenge without Embiid in Denver. The Nuggets (19-16) have been one of the surprising team in the West. They are being led by 6-foot-10, 250-pound center Nikola Jokic, who is averaging 16.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.

This is a matchup where the Sixers will need to be physical at the basket.

They will have Embiid back to try to avenge their home loss to the Suns (13-23) earlier this season. The Sixers entered that game 13-9 and have lost 10 of 12 since. The Suns have won four of their last six.

Embiid had 22 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in 34 minutes in the Dec. 4 game.