Up 3-1 in their first-round series against the Toronto Raptors, there has been plenty of good surrounding the Sixers. Now, they must play through some bad news. An MRI confirmed that Joel Embiid has a torn ligament in his right thumb.
“It just confirmed what we thought. But, nothing changes,” head coach Doc Rivers told reporters after a team film session on Sunday. “Treatment is the same. There literally will be no change. It’s just, we thought what it was, and it was, so you just keep moving it on.”
Embiid suffered the injury in the first half of the Sixers’ Game-3 victory on Wednesday, according to ESPN.
Following Rivers’ commentary on Sunday afternoon, Adrian Wojnarowski revealed that the injury will need to be addressed with surgery, but that Embiid will wait until the offseason to have that done.
Of course, Embiid shoots with his right hand. But, he told reporters after Game 4 that the injury doesn’t affect his live-ball scoring. “I would say it was more, when it comes to rebounding, at the free throw, and also passing,” Embiid said.
Still, his propensity for getting to the free throw line is a sizable factor in why Embiid won the NBA’s scoring title this season. So, you have to wonder how the thumb will affect his free throw shooting. Perhaps even more significant than just missing free throws, does Embiid dial back the aggression if free throws become a problem? That looms as a trajectory-altering unknown for this team.
His handling of heightened defensive pressure when the ball is in his hands figures to be a concern going forward. Embiid’s reads of double-teams have improved, but he had some trouble completing cross-court passes in Game 4. For now, Embiid has to lean on his teammates to help pick up some of the slack on the glass and speed up their decision-making when he makes shorter swing-passes to beat excess pressure.
There’s no need to panic yet, the Sixers are still in the driver’s seat against the Raptors. Rivers has continually reiterated that the injury cannot get any worse after it was first reported to be ailing the MVP candidate. So, Embiid just has to focus on playing his game.
“I’m Catholic; God, I always put it in his hands. That’s why when I go out, I don’t focus on what can happen or what’s going to happen. I just go out there, hoping for the best, trusting him,” Embiid said after Game 4.
The Sixers (3-1) will host the Raptors (1-3) in Game 5 on Monday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 PM, Eastern time. You can catch the drama on NBA TV and NBC Sports Philadelphia.