CAMDEN, N.J. — An MRI on Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid‘s sprained right thumb Sunday confirmed he has a ligament tear, but sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Embiid will have surgery to fix the tear after Philadelphia’s season comes to an end.
“[The MRI] just confirmed what we thought,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “But nothing changes.
“Treatment is the same. There literally will be no change. It’s just, we knew we thought what it was and it was, so you just keep moving on.”
Embiid suffered the injury in the first half of Philadelphia’s 104-101 Game 3 victory over the Raptors in Toronto last Wednesday. While he had 28 points in the second half and overtime of that game — including a last-second game-winning 3-pointer — Embiid had 21 points and eight rebounds in Philadelphia’s 110-102 Game 4 loss Saturday afternoon.
Embiid’s eight rebounds marked the first time he finished a game with less than 10 in more than a month, and he said after the game it had impacted his rebounding, though he also said he’d continue playing through the injury.
“I would say it was more, you know, when it comes to rebounding, at the free throw, and also passing,” Embiid said after Game 4 of how his injury impacted his play. “I don’t know how to explain but it’s whatever. But the bigger story is that we lost the game, we weren’t able to close it out. And we got to do a better job.”
When asked after Game 4 when the injury occurred, Embiid admitted he still wasn’t sure, adding he must’ve gotten tied up with someone and injured his thumb as a result. It’s just the latest in a series of fluky injuries Embiid has suffered throughout his career — and especially in the playoffs. The only time he was healthy for the playoffs was in the NBA’s bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, where Embiid’s 76ers were swept in four games by the Boston Celtics after Ben Simmons had his own season-ending injury shortly before the playoffs began.
Embiid said he gets through these situations by leaning on his faith, and on controlling what he can control.
“It’s whatever,” Embiid said. “I’m Catholic. God … I always put it in his hands. So that’s why when I go out there I don’t focus on, you know, what can happen or what’s going to happen?
“I just go out there hoping for the best and trusting, trusting [my teammates]. So this series hasn’t been … I mean, nobody knows [this], but I was really sick for the first two games. But you know, I fought through it.
“It’s the playoffs. Nothing is gonna stop me. So I just got to keep going, and hope for the best.”
He added that it would be a challenge for him to deal with the injury, joking that, “in basketball, you need to use your hand a lot” when asked if it was impacting his play on the court, and that he wished it had happened to his left hand, as opposed to his right, which he uses to shoot.
Embiid, one of the three finalists for this year’s Most Valuable Player award, alongside Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, has been double-teamed on 37 plays in this series, according to ESPN Stats and Information, as Toronto has loaded up to try to slow him down.
Those double teams are intended to try to speed Embiid up and force turnovers, and Toronto has had success in doing that as the series has progressed, as Embiid has gone from having four across the first two games in Philadelphia to 11 in the two games in Toronto. Rivers said cutting down on turnovers, both for Embiid and the team as a whole, was a focus of Sunday’s walkthrough ahead of Game 5 in Philadelphia Monday, as the 76ers try to close the series out.
“The same thing you’re seeing,” Rivers said, when asked what’s causing the turnovers. “But we’ve gone over it. That’s what we walked over today. It was a little frustrating last night because it’s … we know what they’re doing and it’s what we’ve worked on all year. We were late on everything.
“The traps are … I mean, they’re so obvious where they’re coming from and we have to hurt them for doing it. We had, but now we’re not, so we got to the right place.”