Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler isn’t too happy about the injury, which is keeping Philadelphia 76ers MVP contender Joel Embiid sidelined for at least the start of their playoff streak.
Embiid suffered a concussion and a fractured orbital bone in his left eye in the Sixers’ win over Toronto. He is expected to miss at least the first two games of the series against the Heat.
One of the league’s ultimate contenders, Butler is looking to take on the Sixers full force. Additionally, Butler and Embiid share a friendship that dates back to their time together in Philadelphia.
“I feel bad for my husband,” Butler told reporters over the weekend. “I think I speak for everyone who is part of this team, we want Jo to play. We want to face them with full force and prove that we can keep up with anyone and beat anyone.”
It’s fair to say that without their big man in the middle, the Sixers are a long way from being at their full strength. Embiid averaged 26.2 points and 11.3 rebounds in the first round against the Raptors, and it’s only going to get tougher against a stingy Heat squad.
With Embiid on the shelf, the Sixers will have to get creative to try and hold their ground while he’s out. Options include DeAndre Jordan, Paul Millsap, Charles Bassey and Paul Reed.
“We might need all four guys, even if it’s just a matter of minutes,” said Sixers coach Doc Rivers. “The only thing Miami is, if they’re nothing else, they’re smart. They are lazy magnets. That is important to us. Two reasons: They shoot free throws well, so we don’t want to play the whole series in penalties. And #2 gets some of our boys in bad trouble.
“Bam [Adebayo] does a great job, Jimmy Butler might be the best on the show now without Joel, and Kyle Lowry does it. We just have to be very smart about how we plan our bigs.”
The Sixers enter their series as healthy underdogs with The Heat, coming in at +325 to win the series, according to The Action Network. That number has risen since Embiid’s injury news broke.
The Sixers still have some firepower left in former MVP James Harden, Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey. Rivers expects his team to hold their own against the Eastern Conference frontrunners.