MIAMI — Joel Embiid returned to the 76ers’ lineup Thursday night against the Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The MVP candidate missed Tuesday’s 103-94 road loss to the Indiana Pacers with the flu-like symptoms.
Reserves Furkan Korkmaz (sprained right ankle) and Shake Milton (right knee soreness) also returned. Milton was a late scratch from Tuesday’s game, while Korkmaz had missed the previous four games.
Korkmaz originally sprained his ankle on April 21 in a home game against the Phoenix Suns. He missed the next two games before returning to action. However, he re-aggravated the injury against the Chicago Bulls on March 3.
“I was having soreness a little bit,” Korkmaz said. “I thought I can play through pain and soreness, and then again like four or five games later, I sprained it again. I was like I need to rest up and I need to make sure it’s healthy for the playoffs.”
Reserve Matisse Thybulle missed his second straight game with a bruised left hand. He did, however, participate in a pregame workout.
Meanwhile, Embiid has missed 20 games this season because of injuries, sickness, and rest. He was ranked third in the NBA in scoring (29.2 points per game), 10th in rebounds (10.7), and 10th in blocks (1.4) heading into Thursday’s game.
Sixers can get in rare practices
Doc Rivers was talkin’ about practices for early next week. Not a game, not a game, but the possibility of holding rare practices early next week due to having time off while the NBA play-in tournament is going on.
Practices have been hard to come by this season due to a condensed schedule. But the Sixers’ final game of the regular season will be at 7 p.m. Sunday against the Orlando Magic.
As one of the top playoff seeds, the Sixers won’t have to compete in the play-in tournament that starts Tuesday. The playoffs don’t begin until May 22.
“I don’t really know what we are going to do,” coach Doc Rivers said of holding practices early next week. “My guess is all of the players will come down with practice flu and not be able to show up. So I’m not even sure what we are going to do. It would be nice, though, it really would.”
Rivers likes the play-in idea. He just never wanted to be one of the seven, eight, nine or 10 seeds that have to participate in it.
“But I do think one of the pluses to that is we don’t jump right from the regular season to the playoffs,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to prepare.”
The Sixers headed into Thursday’s game against the Heat one victory shy of clinching the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed. The top two seeds won’t know who their opponent is heading into the play-in tournament.
“But you still get to practice,” Rivers said. “So you know, I still think it’s good.”
The tournament will run Tuesday through Friday.
The seventh and eighth seeds in each conference will play to determine the seventh seed. The ninth and 10th seeds in each conference will play to advance to the second round of the play-in. The winner will face the loser of the seven/eight matchup. The winner of the second-rounder will claim the eighth seed.
The NBA had a version of the play-in tournament last season in the bubble. This offseason the league’s board of governor will vote on continuing to have the play-in beyond this season.