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Nightmare in the Capital: Joel Embiid hurts his knee and the Sixers lose

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Philadelphia 76ers v Washington Wizards - Game Four Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Sixers came into tonight’s game looking to sweep the Wizards. Instead, a disaster scenario unfolded in the game’s early stages. Joel Embiid, who has absolutely demolished the Washington interior defense, started going to work early. Embiid had 8 points, 6 boards, two dimes and a steal in only 8 minutes of play. It was obvious to everyone in the building and at home on TV that Daniel Gafford and Robin Lopez were in for a long night. But as you can see in the clip above, Joel may have gotten a bit ambitious on an attempted rack-attack, looking to posterize Lopez. He took a hard fall while landing with full force on his right (not the one he injured in Washington earlier this season) knee and lower back. Although it is the knee that has bothered him with tendinitis at times throughout his career.

It wasn’t clear at first if he was OK or not because coach Doc Rivers left Embiid in the game for a couple of possessions thereafter. But he was in apparent discomfort and “The Process” walked to the lockerroom where he stayed for the entirety of the second quarter. Finally, the team gave the update that the big fella would not be returning as he was dealing with right knee soreness.

As for the rest of the game, the Wiz found new life with Joel out. They attacked and had little problem scoring, building up a 14 point lead at one point. Ben Simmons was dealing with some foul trouble which clearly impacted his aggressiveness a bit and his total minutes a lot. Philly’s reserves did a decent job making a game of it. Tyrese Maxey was one of the lone bright spots. He had 15 points in just 22 minutes and helped the Sixers spark a 16-3 run to get back into it. Furkan Korkmaz was also helpful with 7 points in just 11 minutes.

Down the stretch, it was tied when the opposing coach Scott Brooks implemented “hack-a-Simmons.” It worked out in their favor as Simmons finished just 5-11 from the stripe and they wound up with a lead down before forward Rui Hachimura hit a clutch triple to put Philly away.

Tobias Harris chipped in 21 points but on a crummy 24 attempts. He didn’t have it tonight in a game they really could have used him. Dwight Howard was a -10 in his 14 minutes. The team getting outscored when he’s on the court has been one of the few blemishes on their stellar top-seeded resume. They really have to figure out a better solution to the non-Embiid minutes, especially if Jo misses time.

Eventually, coach Rivers benched Howard and that appeared to help the team climb back into it with an uptempo style, although they still feel like they’re holding themselves back significantly with the way they deploy Simmons in the halfcourt:

Russell Westbrook had 19 points, 21 rebounds, and 14 assists. Bradley Beal scored a game-high 27 points although he turned it over 7 times. Gafford had 12 points and 5 blocks. He was a problem for Philly’s interior. The Wiz acquiring him has to be one of the more underrated trades of the season.

All eyes now will turn towards the news. The Sixers will have a chance to finish this series back at home in game 5. But the biggest news of all will be whether or not their superstar center Joel Embiid is able to play, and in what form. Will he need an MRI? It will also be interesting to see if Seth Curry is able to suit up. He’s been dealing with an ankle issue and it seems like that may have flared up and cost him some crunch time minutes tonight.

All in all, this was pretty much a nightmare scenario game for the Sixers. But all is not lost. As long as Embiid is OK, they’ll be OK. They’re certainly capable of beating this Wizards team without him if he cannot suit up, but that would imply bigger issues for their title hopes.