PHILADELPHIA — The 76ers found themselves in an all-too-familiar spot Monday night: waiting for an update on Joel Embiid’s status.
The center was listed as questionable because of an injured left knee for Game 2 of the Sixers’ best-of-seven first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets.
A little more than 90 minutes before Monday’s tipoff, Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said Embiid would be a game-time decision. The Nets lead the series 1-0 after an 111-102 victory in Saturday’s Game 1.
“It’s not ideal,” Brown said of the Embiid’s health, “but I have been used to this. I’m so far past the anxiety of the knowledge that you could be given information late. I’m numb to it.”
Embiid has been troubled by injuries is entire career. He missed the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons with a broken foot. A knee injury ended his 2016-17 season in March. Embiid missed the first two games of last year’s playoffs with a broken orbital bone.
This season, Embiid missed 14 of 24 games after the All-Star break with the sore knee. He was listed as doubtful for Game 1 but played. Embiid appeared tired at times but still scored 22 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked five shots in 24 minutes.
“I was out there,” Embiid said, “just thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, push through the pain.’”
Brown said, “We’re in a phase where we’re buying time. Can we get a win and buy a few more days? Can we get another win and buy a few more days? This is the path we’re on with Joel. There is zero doubt he is our crown jewel.”
Brown said the Sixers have two game plans depending on Embiid’s availability.
“There is night,” Brown said with a laugh, “and there’s day. That’s the truth. It’s Joel Embiid.”
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said Brooklyn doesn’t let the speculation about Embiid complicate its game plan.
“We have one plan,” Atkinson said. “I’m not clever enough to figure out another one. I just think it’s too much for the guys. My personal opinion is if you give (the players) two game plans it confuses them.”
Atkinson also doesn’t have to wait for any Embiid game-time decision. When it comes time for the opening tip, Atkinson expected to see Embiid in the center circle.
“In my heart of hearts, he’s playing,” the coach said. “He’s a force even if he’s less than 100 percent.”