Jan. 4—Joel Embiid will miss tonight's 76ers home game against the Indiana Pacers with left foot soreness.
The All-NBA center was listed as questionable to play before the game. He was also questionable Monday against the New Orleans Pelicans because of back soreness, but he went on to total 42 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists in the Sixers' victory.
Coach Doc Rivers said during his pregame news conference that he is unsure when Embiid's most recent injury occurred. Though Embiid "didn't even talk about a lot of soreness right afterwards," the coach said, "later that night, [he] said his foot was sore, and then more the next day." The injury is not considered serious, Rivers added.
Embiid's absence comes one day after he was named the Eastern Conference player of the month for December. He entered Wednesday ranked second in the NBA in scoring at 33.5 points per game, and is also averaging 9.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.7 blocks.
With Embiid out, P.J. Tucker will start at center alongside Tyrese Maxey, James Harden, De'Anthony Melton and Tobias Harris. Montrezl Harrell and Paul Reed are the backup options and could share the floor at the same time, Rivers said. The coach added it is "vital" that those big men roll to the basket Wednesday, and that spacing is sharp.
"We've had some work on it, so we know we can go with different types of lineups," said Rivers, referencing the eight games Embiid has already missed this season due to injury, illness or rest. "... We'll probably do a little bit of all that."
One of the Pacers' top players is center Myles Turner, who entered Wednesday averaging 16.8 points on 55.2% shooting, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks. Rivers also highlighted the Pacers' attacking guards, and how the Sixers' defenders must be connected defensively because "you don't have Joel down there covering up for any mistakes."
Bench unit a work-in-progress
The Sixers' newly replenished roster impacts the entire rotation, including a second unit putting up interesting numbers with a rotating cast entering Wednesday.
They ranked 29th out of 30 NBA teams in bench scoring (27.4 points per game) but 10th in net rating, thanks to a defense allowing 52.6 points per 100 possessions (seventh in the league).
Maxey re-entered the starting lineup for Wednesday's game. When Embiid returns, that will eventually allow Melton to become the sixth-man boost. In his first two games back, however, Maxey regained his rhythm following a six-week absence with a fractured foot in limited off-the-bench minutes.
That has created some strange personnel groupings, such as the Maxey-Shake Milton-Georges Niang-Tucker-Harrell unit that was on the floor for a detrimental stretch during the Sixers' last loss on Friday at New Orleans. In about four minutes of game time that overlapped the first and second quarters, the game flipped from a three-point Sixers lead to a 10-point deficit.
"We're not going to know who's going to be in certain lineups, certain situations," Harrell said. "It's a day-by-day process, and I think everybody is understanding of that and has accepted that. We come with a variety of different lineups, both starting and throughout the game. ... We're trying to find out what works for us."
(c)2023 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.inquirer.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.