December 2, 2023

What to watch as 76ers are without Joel Embiid as they try and close out Round 1 again in Game 5


Photo by Ned Dishman/ NBA E via Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers will have a second chance to close out the Washington Wizards and win their first-round series Wednesday night, but they’ll be without their MVP-finalist center Joel Embiid.

Here’s what to watch:

No Embiid

The Sixers announced Wednesday afternoon that Joel Embiid is out for game five with a small right meniscus tear in his right knee. He’s considered day to day, according to the team. 

For Washington, Davis Bertans is out with a right calf strain. ESPN reported Tuesday he’ll need four to six weeks to recover. Russell Westbrook is available after being listed as questionable with a right ankle sprain prior to games three and four.

As long as Ben Simmons does not have foul trouble the way he did in game four, I would assume he’ll play a lot of minutes at center. Dwight Howard and Mike Scott were the Sixers’ other Embiid replacements after he left the game Monday night, combining for 31 minutes. 

Stylistically, the Sixers are a very different team when Embiid doesn’t suit up. Simmons needs to be featured in some way or the other offensively, whether that’s taking advantage of his superior quickness against an opposing big man, screening and rolling, driving and kicking the ball out to shooters around him, or playing a hybrid role. Head coach Doc Rivers adamantly defended Simmons after the Wizards intentionally sent him to the foul line late in game four and the 24-year-old made 4-of-8 attempts over the final 2:47.

Back to 100% capacity

The Sixers will be allowed to host a full-capacity crowd Wednesday night for the first time since March 11, 2020. 

The NBA suspended its season that night after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The Sixers have gone 31-7 in games at Wells Fargo Center this season, counting games one and two against the Wizards this series. Attendance was at 50% of capacity for those wins. 

Round one of the playoffs across the league has included numerous incidents of line-crossing fan behavior, including two in this series. A Sixers fan poured popcorn on an injured Russell Westbrook in game two. In game four at Capital One Arena, a fan ran onto the court during play. Everyone involved with Wednesday’s game is hoping that’s the end of it for the series. 

“That was just some dumba– s—,” Tobias Harris said of the fan running onto the floor. “That was it. I don’t know. I don’t know what you really want the NBA to do. I know people have been stuck in the house for a long time, social media’s a big thing, so everyone wants clout some way or the other. He got his 15 seconds of fame. That was it, really.”

Next up for Maxey

Tyrese Maxey continues to look comfortable in the playoffs. The Sixers rookie scored 15 points on 6-for-12 shooting in game four, with 12 of those points coming after the Wizards took a 92-78 lead late in the third quarter. 

“I thought he was great,” Rivers said. “I thought he struggled in the first half, honestly, for whatever reason. But in the second half, I thought he was fantastic. He was going downhill. I thought he made some good defensive plays, as well. He was involved rebounding. He really, really showed well tonight. I’m very happy for him.”

There are basketball reasons for how well Maxey has taken to the playoffs, among them his off-the-dribble burst and impressive avoidance of turnovers. His ready-for-anything mindset has helped, too. Big minutes could be in store Wednesday given Embiid’s absence.


When: 7:00 P.M. E.S.T.

Where: Wells Fargo Center

Broadcast: NBA TV, NBC Sports Philadelphia

Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

Social media coverage: Philly Sports Reports’ Twitter & Instagram.

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