Brett Brown had no update on the physical status of Joel Embiid on Monday, but the 76ers coach didn’t question his decision to play his ailing center so long during Sunday’s 101-96 loss to the visiting Toronto Raptors.
The teams are tied at two games apiece in their best-of-seven series, which will resume Tuesday night in Toronto.
Embiid was not listed on the NBA’s injury report that came out late Monday afternoon.
After the game Sunday, Brown told reporters he had received a text at 6:20 that morning from Embiid, which said in part that he “really never felt this poorly.” Embiid told Brown he didn’t know whether he could play in the afternoon game.
Embiid said after the game that he had been throwing up and needed an IV at 6 a.m. Sunday. He complained of a cold and headaches.
After saying early Monday afternoon that he didn’t have any update on Embiid, Brown was asked on a conference call with reporters whether he should have played Embiid as much as he did: 35 minutes, 14 seconds, the most action he has seen in eight playoff games this season. (He missed one because of tendinitis in his left knee.)
“I am sort of the recipient of the news I get from our medical staff in, you know, dealing with Joel person to person, about how much he can give, how long he can go,” Brown said. “I do not. I think that the people around Joel, led by Joel, think that we played him to the level that we should have.”
In Game 2 of the series, Embiid was a game-time decision because of gastroenteritis. The Sixers won that game, 94-89, but Embiid scored just 12 points and attempted only seven field goals (making two). He played 32:05.
The following game, he had his highest scoring game of the postseason with 33 points, along with 10 rebounds and five blocked shots, in a 116-95 win.
On Sunday he had 11 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists but only seven field-goal attempts (making two). He was 7-for-10 from the foul line but missed three in a row during a fourth-quarter stretch.
Embiid was a plus-17 for the game, the highest rating on either team. By comparison, Toronto star Kawhi Leonard, who scored 39 points, was a plus-7.
Yet Embiid seemed to tire in the fourth quarter. He played 10:06 in the period, and had three points and a minus-1 rating. Embiid was 0-for-2 from the field, missing his only three-pointer. He hit 3 of 6 foul shots, had two turnovers, and committed four fouls.
Whether Embiid is at top form or not, the Sixers have experienced great frustration in dealing with Leonard. In the four games, Leonard is averaging 38 points, nine rebounds, and four assists, shooting 61.8 percent from the field and 46.4 percent from three-point range.
Brown was asked Monday if the Sixers might try to trap Leonard more, to get the ball out of his hands.
“We have been sprinkling in a fair amount of traps,” Brown said. “I think that a steady diet of anything with such a great player is completely dangerous because they have the best three-point-shooting team since Marc Gasol came in to the team. It is punishment.”
Gasol was acquired at the trade deadline on Feb. 7 from Memphis.
During the series, Gasol has been the primary defender on Embiid, and he had his best game of the series Sunday, with 16 points, five rebounds, and a plus-13 rating. Gasol also saw his most playing time, 39:02.
Brown isn’t keen on having Embiid trap Leonard.