MIAMI — Just over 24 hours before the Sixers face off against the Heat in Game 3, Joel Embiid was listed as doubtful because of a left orbital fracture, or a 75 percent he will not play. That doesn’t mean, though, that status won’t change.
Embiid went through his second straight day of light practice Wednesday shortly after the team arrived in Miami. The Sixers will hold morning shootaround Thursday and could evaluate him again in pregame warmups before he is ruled in or out.
Embiid was knocking down threes prior to the start of practice.
Embiid 7️⃣ in a row. pic.twitter.com/sFLY7FfHkU— Jessica Camerato (@JCameratoNBCS) April 18, 2018
Brett Brown said Embiid did a “little bit” of contact work Tuesday and handled it “quite well.” Conditioning is also a big part of his return. Embiid has not played in a game since March 28 when he suffered the fracture and a concussion.
“It’s going to take time getting hit fitness up,” Brown said. “I think because he is an athlete, whenever the time comes where he does play, I think it’ll move in a more rapid way. I think his body looks great … I feel like it’ll kick in quicker than most.”
Embiid expressed his frustrations of being sidelined with an Instagram post shortly after the Sixers lost Game 2. They had previously won nine straight without him, which helped with his patience.
“His spirit was very high,” Robert Covington said of his first practice. “Overall, he felt really good and we felt really good to have him out there with us.”
Embiid will have to shake off some rust when he does return. He thrives on consistent action to stay in game shape, and he’s been out for three weeks. If he’s not at 100 percent when he plays, Brown could see him still making an impact.
“Defensively, he immediately comes in and changes the landscape,” Brown said. “The game is being played so fast right now and he has not been with us for a while, so I think the adjustment offensively might be a little more noticeable than defensively initially. He’s so gifted and he’s intelligent. He really is as smart and as instinctive a player as I’ve coached. He can look at something without doing it and then go do it.”
The Sixers are expecting another physical matchup with the Heat, especially with the next two games being in Miami. Embiid’s tough play would help them in that aspect as they try to take another series lead. The team has an approach, though, even if he cannot battle on the court.
“It doesn’t have to be macho versus macho,” Brown said. “That’s not how we want to play. We want to have an intellectual response to physicality."
The Sixers are looking for their first win of the season in Miami.