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Joel Embiid provides an injury update following blowout loss to Celtics

How was Joel Embiid feeling after his first game back?

The 76ers accomplished two of their goals on their business trip to Boston. The first was securing home court advantage. Now, if “all” they do is win their remaining home games, they’ll not only advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, they’d win the championship.

That’s because they would have home court over whoever emerges from the Knicks-Heat side of the bracket, as well as whoever emerges from the Western Conference.

Remember, your regular season standings per

The second goal they took care of was getting their superstar and MVP, Joel Embiid, back into that lineup. Obviously, they’ll continue to monitor how his knee feels ahead of Friday’s 7:30 tipoff, but he didn’t appear to suffer noticeable setbacks in 27 total minutes.

The stakes have not been this high in some time. All year long, fans talked about this team finally making it out of the second round, and all year long the team pushed back on that notion, reminding us they’re not in it for a final four berth. They’re coming for the whole jawn.

Accomplishing that will begin with a massive Game 3, one of the biggest of the (post) Process Era. Whichever team wins the next game will likely become the odds on favorites to win this series, if not the championship. Philadelphia opened as -1.5 home dogs, with a +100 moneyline on DraftKings.

They’re now at +650 to win the whole thing. And if somehow they can beat Boston at The Center Friday, those odds figure to improve considerably.

You just get the sense that the Sixers will need to make some adjustments after an abysmal Game 2 showing. But as always they’ll need Joel to look a little bit more like the MVP version of himself that scored 52 points on Boston as the regular season neared its close. It wouldn’t hurt if James Harden looked more like his Game 1 self than his Game 2 self as well.

After his return, the newly crowned 2023 MVP provided a key update on how his injured right knee was feeling after the 121-87 spanking. “I feel pretty good,” Embiid told reporters in Boston. “I’m OK. It felt pretty good to go up and down a little bit and it feels pretty good.”

When returning from an injury, the two things we’re really keeping an eye on is how the player looks physically, as well as the player’s fitness level.

Embiid admitted he was pleasantly surprised about how his conditioning felt upon returning. “I was a bit surprised. Yesterday was the first time I really did something going up and down in two weeks so I was pretty surprised at that, but I said it all year, I’ve grown a lot and I found ways to take care of myself and kinda know what to do. Obviously, there’s nothing like actually playing a game and finding your rhythm and going up and down so at times, you kinda feel tired, but I thought tonight was fine. It should be better as every day goes on.”

Obviously, the best part here is that Embiid felt encouraged by how things went, and that he suffered no apparent setbacks (nothing from Ramona Shelburne so far today is good).

So it sounded at least last night like he’s confident he can continue to moving forwards in his rehab. Embiid, who dropped 15 points to go with five blocks, was asked why he decided to come back for Game 2 specifically.

“The way we saw it, with what I have,” the six-time All-Star explained, “I’m not gonna be - what I have is supposed to be out 4-to-6 weeks or something like that. So I’m not gonna be 100 percent for that whole time. I’m not gonna be fully healed for that whole time. I felt pretty good to play and I feel like I can help the team defensively and offensively. Obviously, offensively, I wasn’t as aggressive. I was just trying to let the game come to me and then defensively, just protecting the rim and I think I did a fine job when it comes to that so I just felt like being up 1-0 and having a chance to go up 2-0 against this type of team, I knew they were going to come at us. I expected it, but you never know. Anything can happen so I just felt like it probably would have been the same result as far as how I’m feeling if I would’ve come back in Game 3. Probably rusty and not myself, but I feel like just got this out of the way.”

The grim reality is that Embiid admits this LCL sprain is typically a 4-6 week recovery window. But Game 3 will only be 15 days since he was first injured. So the 76ers are going to have to find a way to win this series without him at full go and hope he can inch his way closer to for a potential Conference Finals at the crib.

“One thing about me, that’s a mindset that I’ve always had,” Embiid continued. “Especially, after coming back from those foot surgeries. I heard a lot people go ‘you gotta go slow. You gotta make sure you don’t hurt yourself again.’ My mindset—I believe in God and it’s all in His hands and my mindset has always been I gotta play as hard as I can so when I’m out there, it doesn’t matter what’s going on. Even if it hurts, I try my best to just focus on not what’s going on. Just focus on playing hard and not putting my head on what’s going on if I do this move or if I move this way. I just try and do my best. Sometimes, you don’t get that response from your body and sometimes you do, but when you don’t get that response from your body, you just gotta adjust, but like I said, I’m fine. I can help the team in so many other ways defensively and I think as the days go, I’m gonna feel better to get back to my dominant self.”

Embiid gave an emotional interview upon receiving his MVP trophy earlier in the day. And it seems that may have primed him to be a bit more forthcoming than usual in his answers postgame as well. He does not always give us a look at his mindset, his religion, or his approach to playing at less than full strength. But to paraphrase Shams Charania recently, Embiid has a warrior mentality and the legend of Joel Embiid continues.

Doc Rivers recently noted that this is going to be all part of their story. And now so much hinges on Game 3. What is on Joel’s mind with Friday’s monster game in front of them?

“Just obviously, one of the biggest things about it is mobility and swelling. That’s the biggest thing. Just gotta cross your fingers and hope that it doesn’t (swell) and treatment around the clock to make sure you’re as good as possible. I think I should be fine. I play through a lot. Last year, broken face, fingers, played through it all. Even with the concern that I could lose my vision if I got hit so I’m gonna keep playing through anything. We got a big chance so gotta take advantage of it and make sure we’re all ready for Game 3.”

To his point, if you’ve played with a broken face, knowing that the wrong blow could cost you vision in an eye, the stakes don’t feel quite as scary this time. But yeesh, this guy is something, huh?

The next injury report will be submitted this evening around 7:30. So far today, no news of setback is very good news for the Sixers.

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