TORONTO — As we approach the biggest Sixers game since 2001, we’ve got more questions than answers about the team’s best player.
Joel Embiid is listed as probable with an upper-respiratory infection for Game 5 against the Raptors at Scotiabank Arena Tuesday night. He missed shootaround this afternoon and was back at the team hotel resting.
In all likelihood, the All-Star center guts it out again, but which Embiid will the Sixers get?
“I haven’t talked to him about how he’s doing. I can look at him and tell how he’s doing,” Jimmy Butler said. “Hopefully he gets his rest up, fluids, whatever he needs to do, but we want the man healthy. At the end of the day, we want him healthy obviously. We want him to be out here battling with us, but I think health is more important than anything.”
The health of Embiid will continue to be at the forefront until he can consistently stay off the team’s injury report. He’s dealt with tendinitis in his left knee for months. That caused him to miss a bunch of games down the stretch and a playoff game. The lack of playing time led to a diminished fitness level. After dealing with gastroenteritis in Game 2, he’s dealing with another ailment a week later.
Is it his diet? Is it his conditioning? At this point, those questions are probably better for the offseason. Right now, the Sixers need him to play like the star that he is to get past the Raptors — though any Embiid is better than no Embiid.
With a pivotal game on deck, the Sixers can’t worry about what exactly is bothering Embiid.
“I’m not a f---ing doctor. I don’t know,” Butler said when asked what was ailing Embiid.
“I tried to stay as far from him as I could to tell you the truth. I love him, but I don’t want to be sick, either. I hate being sick so whenever I’m sick I’m down and out. But you could tell that he wants to battle. He wants to be out there with his guys. He did that for us last game. We love and appreciate him for it. Like I said, I’ll take him the same way tonight.”
While Marc Gasol has historically done well in his matchups against Embiid, we saw what Embiid can do when he’s right. He poured in 33 points in Game 3 and it helped the Sixers cruise to a win. If they can get about half of that from their big man, they should be fine.
Whatever he can give, they’ll take and hope it’s enough to head back to the Wells Fargo Center with a chance to punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals.
They missed a golden opportunity to go up 3-1, but have another with a chance to take a 3-2 series lead back home.
“We’re fine. I think we perform better when our backs are against the wall anyways,” Butler said. “We’re here on the road, they want to protect the home floor. We want to come in here and win. We’re locked in. We’re ready to do what we’re going to do. Just got out there and compete, man. Stick together, through good and through bad, and take our chances.”
Everyone should wash their hands and not take any chances there.
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