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Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Joel Embiid has suffered an injury in the NBA Playoffs, and his status for the second round is in doubt.

This has become a painfully familiar line to Philadelphia 76ers fans over the last few years. In 2018, Embiid played through an orbital fracture with a mask on his face. In 2021, the six-time All-Star played through a torn meniscus he suffered in the first round of the postseason. And just last year, he suffered a torn ligament in his thumb and another orbital fracture in the first round.

Different playoff run, same story for Embiid, as the likely MVP winner went down awkwardly in Game 3 against the Brooklyn Nets and suffered a right knee sprain. So, how serious is Embiid’s injury, and will he be able to return for the start of the second round?

Joel Embiid suffers right knee sprain

Joel Embiid simply cannot catch a break in the playoffs.

The back-to-back NBA scoring champ has been hampered by some sort of injury or illness in every postseason run of his career, and that won’t be changing this time around. During Game 3 against the Nets, Embiid went down awkwardly after trying to block a shot and hobbled his way through the rest of the game. An MRI following the game revealed a right knee sprain.

Embiid missed Game 4 of the 76ers’ first-round series — a game Philadelphia won to sweep Brooklyn and advance to the second round — but will he be able to return to the court for the all-important Eastern Conference Semifinals?

Joel Embiid injury update: Will Sixers star play in the second round?

Joel Embiid looks on during a playoff game against the Nets.
Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts against the Brooklyn Nets | Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Sixers fans have seen this movie before. The city is brimming with optimism entering the playoffs, then Embiid suffers an injury in the first or second round, and Philly’s title hopes get slashed before the Eastern Conference Finals. Since Embiid joined the team in 2014, the 76ers have never made it past the second round of the playoffs. Untimely injuries have been a major reason why.

And here we go again. After the Sixers closed out the Nets in Game 4, head coach Doc Rivers shed some light on Embiid’s knee sprain.

“I just don’t know,” Rivers said Saturday when asked if Embiid will be ready for the second round. “I would say, right now, it’s probably the same percentage I said before the game … probably 50%, at best.”

The good news for the 76ers is that the first-round series between the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks is only three games in. Boston holds a 2-1 lead in the series, but Atlanta could force at least a Game 6 with a win in Game 4 Sunday. If that series goes six or seven games, Embiid will have more than a week to rest his sprained knee.

“There’s optimism that Embiid could be back in the lineup as soon as early next week,” Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said Friday on NBA Countdown. “If the Sixers can get past the Nets here, there’s optimism that Embiid would not miss time in the next round.”

Even if Embiid suits up in Game 1 of the second round, he won’t be 100% healthy. This is an injury that will likely linger throughout Philadelphia’s playoff run, but Embiid has plenty of experience playing hurt at this point in his career.


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