Sixers MVP finalist Joel Embiid suffered a right orbital fracture and a mild concussion during Thursday’s Game 6, series-clinching victory at the Toronto Raptors, the team confirmed Friday night. He is out indefinitely and further updates will be provided as appropriate, the team said.
The injury — which occurred when the Raptors’ Pascal Siakam inadvertently elbowed Embiid in the face while driving to the basket late in Thursday’s fourth quarter, a source confirmed to The Inquirer — is a significant blow to the Sixers’ chances to advance past the top-seeded Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals. That best-of-seven series begins Monday night in Miami.
A source told the Inquirer that Embiid will be re-evaluated next week and that there is currently no timetable for his return. Recovery time for an orbital fracture is typically dependent on if surgery is required along with other factors such as the bones involved, possible displacement and any soft tissue or eye damage, per Jeff Stotts, a certified athletic trainer who tracks sports injuries through a website called In Street Clothes. Embiid suffered the same injury to the opposite eye during the 2017-18 season, undergoing surgery and missing 10 games over 22 days and then wearing a protective mask when he returned.
Embiid was already playing through a torn ligament in his right thumb that occurred in Game 3 of the Raptors series. He totaled 33 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks Thursday night’s dominant 132-97 win in Toronto, helping the Sixers advance to the second round. He received medical attention on the bench after taking the elbow — which was originally called a foul on Embiid before a coach’s challenge by Doc Rivers resulted in the call being reversed to an offensive foul on Siakam — and did not re-enter the game with the Sixers in control of the victory.
Embiid did not speak to the media during the Sixers’ postgame news conference following Thursday’s win, but told NBATV in a courtside interview immediately after the final buzzer, “I think [Siakam] broke my face. I’m serious. I think he might have broken my face, but it’s all good. It’s the playoffs.”
The Sixers were off Friday but return to practice Saturday to prepare for the start of the series against the Heat.
Before this rash of playoff injuries, Embiid had enjoyed the healthiest season of his career. He played in a career-high 68 regular-season games, including a stretch of 51 of 53 games from Dec. 15 through April 9. The only games he missed during that period were for planned rest.
During the regular season, Embiid became the first center since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 to lead the NBA in scoring (30.6 points per game) while also averaging 11.7 rebounds, a career-high 4.2 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. Earlier this month, he was named one of three MVP finalists alongside the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (the reigning MVP) and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo (who won the award in 2019 and 2020).
Without Embiid, the Sixers’ center options are Paul Reed, DeAndre Jordan and Paul Millsap. Rookie Charles Bassey is also on the roster but has been out with a shoulder injury. Additionally, stretch-forward Georges Niang could be a small-ball option at that position. The Heat boast one of the NBA’s best two-way centers in Bam Adebayo, who was an All-Star in 2020 and a two-time NBA All-Defense second team selection.