Joel Embiid suffered a right orbital fracture and mild concussion during the Sixers' Game 6 win Thursday over the Raptors, the team said Friday night in a statement. He is out and the Sixers say they will provide updates on his status "as appropriate."
It's a deeply unfortunate case of déjà vu for the team and Embiid. The 28-year-old MVP finalist sustained a left orbital fracture and concussion in March of 2018 in a collision with teammate Markelle Fultz. Embiid had surgery, missed the remainder of the regular season, and returned for Game 3 of the Sixers' first-round playoff series against the Heat wearing a protective mask. The Sixers beat Miami in five games, then lost to the Celtics in Round 2.
Four years later, the Sixers and Heat will begin their second-round series on Monday night in Miami.
Embiid had been playing through a torn ligament in his right thumb, but he turned in an excellent series-clinching performance, posting 33 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. With the Sixers up 29 points and 3:58 remaining, Pascal Siakam elbowed Embiid in the face on a layup attempt. The five-time All-Star watched the rest of garbage time from the bench, where he was attended to by Sixers head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson.
Paul Reed, a high-energy 22-year-old who won G League MVP last year, was Embiid's backup in the Toronto series. DeAndre Jordan did not play besides guarding the final inbounds pass of Game 3. That was his first playoff action since 2017. Paul Millsap, another past-his-prime veteran option at center, also did not appear.
Miami's Jimmy Butler (right knee inflammation) and Kyle Lowry (left hamstring strain) both missed Game 5 of the Heat's first-round series win over the Hawks and sat out the team's practice Friday.
The Sixers will practice Saturday and work on ways to compensate for their best player's absence. James Harden (22 points, 15 assists), Tyrese Maxey (25 points, eight assists) and Tobias Harris (19 points, 11 rebounds) all played strong games Thursday and figure to assume greater offensive responsibility without Embiid.
The team's depth and defense will be tested, too. Shake Milton, Georges Niang and Reed were the Sixers' three main bench players against Toronto. Matisse Thybulle was ineligible to play in Canada because he's not fully vaccinated, and the 25-year-old performed poorly in Game 5. The Heat have shown that, when Thybulle's on the floor, they're glad to let him shoot. An All-Defensive selection last season and uniquely disruptive player at his best, Thybulle went a combined 1 for 8 from the floor in the three regular-season games he played this year against Miami.
We'll learn more details in the coming days about what's next for Embiid and when a return might be on the table, but Friday's news is clearly difficult for a superstar who's had well more than his fair share of bad injury luck.
Embiid took pride in playing a career-high 68 games this season. The Sixers were 6-8 in the 14 contests he was out.