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Sixers missing Joel Embiid’s presence during four-game skid

The Sixers (8-6) dropped to 1-4 in games Embiid missed this season, including their current four-game skid.

Sixers center Joel Embiid against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, October 30, 2021 in Philadelphia.
Sixers center Joel Embiid against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, October 30, 2021 in Philadelphia.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

SALT LAKE CITY — It could be argued that the 76ers’ current situation is a prime reason why they gave Joel Embiid a four-year, $196-million supermax contract extension in August.

The Sixers are having a tough time winning without their four-time All-Star center.

Saturday’s 118-113 loss to the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse marked the fourth straight game Embiid missed while in the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Though forward Tobias Harris and reserve guard Isaiah Joe have recently cleared COVID-19 protocols and are available, it also marked their fourth straight defeat.

The Sixers (8-6) dropped to 1-4 in games Embiid missed this season. That’s not a good sign heading into Tuesday’s contest against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Arena. The Jazz (8-5) are led by All-Star tandem Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert along with Jordan Clarkson, the sixth man of the year.

» READ MORE: The Sixers’ defense dooms them in 118-113 loss, their 4th consecutive since losing Joel Embiid

Embiid, who is vaccinated, received a positive COVID test on Monday.

A vaccinated player can typically return after a 10-day quarantine or following two negative tests 24 hours apart. Based on a 10-day quarantine, the earliest Embiid would be able to return would be Thursday’s game against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Embiid, however, has been symptomatic. That suggests he could be out longer than 10 days. So his return is fluid.

Sixers reserve guard Matisse Thybulle is also in protocols. He was originally placed there due to contact tracing before testing positive. Thybulle has missed five games. His return is also fluid.

And things got worse for the Sixers on Saturday when Danny Green reinjured his left hamstring and didn’t return against the Pacers. This was his fourth game back after missing the previous three with the injury.

But the Sixers have been undermanned since the preseason. Yet, they were on top of the Eastern Conference standings at 8-2 and riding a six-game winning streak before Embiid was sidelined.

Embiid isn’t having one of his best seasons. However, he commands double-teams, which frees things up for teammates. Embiid, 27, has been focusing on being more of a playmaker for teammates and is also a solid rim protector.

Embiid is averaging 21.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, and a career-best 4.0 assists while shooting a career-best 39.4% on three-pointers. He had 30 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks for his second double-double in a 114-105 victory over the Chicago Bulls in his last game on Nov. 6. Embiid made 4 of 5 three-pointers.

» READ MORE: A Ben Simmons return would be an ‘adjustment’ and a test of Sixers’ team chemistry

The deal locks up Embiid, who represented himself in negotiations, through the 2026-27 season and is fully guaranteed, so the Sixers are banking on a clean bill of health.

Embiid became eligible for a super-max extension after earning second-team All-NBA honors this past season. A new collective bargaining agreement might come in 2023-24, and that could push Embiid’s extension to more than $200 million. The current number is with a projected salary cap of $124.9 million in 2023.