Joel Embiid’s playing status for his second back-to-back will not be determined until game day.
The Sixers' big man is dealing with a right ankle injury that left him questionable for Friday’s game against the Pelicans before he posted a 24-point, 16-rebound double-double in 24 minutes (see highlights). He will be evaluated Saturday ahead of the Sixers' next matchup hosting the Clippers.
“We’re going to see how the ankle feels,” Embiid said after the Sixers’ 100-82 win (see observations). “It was pretty painful today, but I want to push through everything. I’ve made it this far and especially when I’ve been allowed to play back-to-backs, I really want to push through it and play. Then we’ll go from there.”
Embiid is unsure of how he bothered his ankle. He felt “pretty good” after logging 32 minutes Tuesday facing the Wizards. He experienced swelling on Wednesday and had trouble walking on it. The discomfort was alleviated Thursday but Friday he was in doubt up until he went through pregame warmups. Brett Brown was surprised Embiid ended up playing.
“To his credit, he loves playing at home,” Brown said. “He loves playing in front of these fans.”
Embiid didn’t show signs of being bothered. He recorded 20 points and 10 rebounds by halftime, joining DeMarcus Cousins and Nikola Jokic as the only players to do so this season.
The performance was reminiscent of the Sixers’ win over the Spurs on Jan. 3. Embiid had been ruled out with a sprained right hand and decided to play anyway. He ended up with 21 points, four rebounds, four assists and — most impressively — four blocks.
Embiid had not been made available for back-to-backs at all in his career until two weeks ago. He was eligible Jan. 28 and 29 against the Thunder and Bucks, but he played 36 minutes in Oklahoma City and sat out in Milwaukee. Last weekend, Embiid reached the milestone for the first time with consecutive contests at home against the Heat and on the road against the Pacers.
The advantage the Sixers have in the situation this weekend is both games are at the Wells Fargo Center, and Friday they built a 32-point lead after the third quarter, which allowed Embiid to rest the entire fourth.
“We feel like we’ve done as much as we can,” Brown said. “We played well, were able to get him out, back-to-backs here at home, which is very rare. We’ve given ourselves our best chance to be able to see him play a back-to-back tomorrow night.”
If Embiid does not play, expect Amir Johnson to get the start.