Joel Embiid Rumors: 'Real Hope' 76ers Star Returns from Injury for Game 3 vs. Heat

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMay 4, 2022

TORONTO, ON- APRIL 28  - Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) as the Toronto Raptors fall the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 6 and lose their first round NBA playoff series 4-2 in Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. April 28, 2022.        (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

While the Philadelphia 76ers are fighting an uphill battle against the top-seeded Miami Heat and will be without their star player for Wednesday's Game 2 after losing the first contest, some significant help may be on the way.

John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported big man "Joel Embiid is progressing well and there is real hope" he could play in Friday's Game 3 even though he is dealing with an orbital fracture and torn ligament in his thumb.

To say Philadelphia missed Embiid in Game 1's 14-point loss would be quite the understatement.

DeAndre Jordan started in his place and was a minus-22 in 17 minutes while struggling on the defensive end and being a nonfactor on offense. Paul Reed was better with four points, nine rebounds and four assists, but he played just 13 minutes because of foul trouble.

Miami was also able to focus more of its defensive attention on James Harden without having to worry about Embiid, and it held him to 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting with five turnovers.

Frankly, the 76ers don't have much of a chance to win this series without Embiid.

The MVP candidate had the best season of his career and averaged 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 49.9 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from deep.

His defense could also help contain Bam Adebayo in this series, and his mere presence on the court would open up his teammates for better looks on the other end.

"I know he did something yesterday, but not much, and I know he's feeling a lot better," head coach Doc Rivers told reporters Tuesday when discussing Embiid's health. "I don't want to give false hope either. So I'll just stop there."

Embiid's potential return may be the only hope the 76ers have at this point.