When star big man Joel Embiid was ruled out for Games 1 and 2, we all knew it was going to be a huge problem for the 76ers. How could they avoid a 2-0 deficit against the East's top seed without their best player?
Unfortunately, it ended up being as bad as many had feared.
The 76ers lost against the Heat in a blowout in Game 1 and then lost by double digits again in Game 2 on Wednesday (final score 119-103). Despite the best efforts of James Harden and Tyrese Maxey, the 76ers are in a 2-0 hole heading back to Philly.
As you might expect, the pair of games really emphasized Joel Embiid's importance to the team, and many on Twitter made sure to show some love and appreciation for the talents of the 5x All-Star.
The 76ers finished with the fourth-best record in the East, and that obviously has a lot to do with Embiid. Before James Harden's arrival, he had the 76ers winning games at a solid rate while putting up averages of 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game on 49% shooting.
But with Embiid out for the past two games, the responsibility fell on James Harden to keep the Sixers afloat. He did not deliver.
“All this is new,” said Harden on his struggles. “We are trying to figure it out on the fly. Things aren’t going to be great all the time. But I think the more we can communicate and I think all of us are on the same page and want the same thing, that’s to win. We listen with open ears and try to go out there and try to play our butts off.”
Whatever is going on with Harden, the Sixers are running out of time to figure things out. If they can't get a handle on the situation soon, they could be sent home in a 4-0 sweep.
The good news is that Embiid should be back for Game 4. Even if he's not 100%, his presence alone should give Philly a major boost.
We'll see if it will be enough to extend the series.