PHILADELPHIA — It turns out Joel Embiid will play Friday night against the Miami Heat.
After missing the Philadelphia 76ers’ double-digit Game 1 and 2 losses on the road due to an orbital fractured and mild concussion, the star center was cleared to face Miami in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at the Wells Fargo Center.
Embiid averaged 26.2 points and 11.3 rebounds in the opening-round series victory over the Toronto Raptors. He scored 33 points on 12-for-18 shooting in the clinching Game 6 win in Toronto despite a torn ligament in his right thumb, then suffered the facial injury and concussion with four minutes left on an elbow from the Raptors’ Pascal Siakam.
Embiid cleared concussion protocols Friday morning and participated in the team’s shootaround, then the Sixers upgraded him from out to doubtful early in the afternoon.
Embiid received a big hand from the early arrivals in the crowd when he walked onto the court prior to tip-off to determine if he’d be able to play.
Not only do the Sixers miss him at the offensive end, where his presence creates better space and more open shots for his teammates, but they don’t have another interior defender like him. Heat big man Bam Adebayo shot 9–f 10 when guarded by fill-in starter DeAndre Jordan in the first two games.
In Embiid’s absence, Sixers coach Doc Rivers has used a combination of Jordan, Paul Reed and Paul Millsap, as well power forwards Tobias Harris and Georges Niang in a small-ball lineup, as the centers.
Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday night in Philadelphia, with a potential Game 5 back in Miami on Tuesday night.
Follow Tom Moore on Twitter @TomMoorePhilly.