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76ers star center Joel Embiid is out indefinitely after suffering a right facial fracture and mild concussion with 3:58 remaining in the fourth quarter of Philadelphia’s Game 6 victory over the Raptors in the First Round of the playoffs Thursday.
Head coach Doc Rivers, who has taken heat over the past couple of days for having Embiid out on the court in garbage time with Philadelphia up by 27 with less than five minutes to go, defended the decision during his media availability Saturday.
“It wasn’t four minutes left and 29 points,” Rivers said. “He scored the bucket to make it 29. Everyone was in. The other team had all their guys in. The last five minutes of the game, we made the run the last minute of that game right before that. That’s how we got up 29.”
Rivers added that most teams have typically left their top guns in late during the playoffs.
“After Joel made the shot and did the airplane, if you watched the game, I turned and said I’m calling a timeout the next possession,” Rivers said. “Not upset that he was in. You can make that a big deal if you want, but just go look at every team and every game and their guys are in until about the three or four minute mark.”
Embiid, 28, had already been playing through a torn ligament in his right thumb, which he suffered in Philadelphia’s Game 3 victory over Toronto. He intended to play through the pain and undergo surgery after the season.
It’s currently unclear if/when Embiid will return, but Rivers hinted that there could be a chance he returns at some point during the 76ers’ Second Round matchup with the Heat.
”There’s hope,” Rivers said.
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