NBA Notebook: Embiid's injury is a big blow to 76ers
The NBA: where amazing happens. It's hard to forget that old slogan in light of the play we've been witnessing this week around the Association. As first round series progress and/or finish up, amazing individual performances are taking place on a nightly basis.
Let’s take a look at the top stories - and top performances - from around the league in this edition of our NBA Notebook.
Set your watch for Dame Time
Damian Lillard set an NBA playoffs record with 12 made threes in a legendary game in Denver on Tuesday. In a double overtime loss to the Nuggets, Lillard scored 55 points on 17-for-24 shooting, including some absolutely incredible clutch three-pointers at the end of both regulation and the first overtime.
Lillard has consistently been one of the most underrated players in the league since he entered. Despite his All-Star status, his ability to take over offensively and make the big shot is truly second to none, and Portland’s inability to win on the biggest stage prevents him from getting the same level of notoriety as peers like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James.
In the Game 5 loss, Lillard whirled his way to miraculous shots in the final seconds that gave his team a chance to win a massive contest that typically goes a long way to deciding the series. While the series is not over and Portland is favored to force a Game 7, it is certainly disappointing to the Blazers and their fans that such a miraculous display proved to be nothing more than amazing entertainment.
Embiid's Injury comes at the worst time for Philly
The Philadelphia 76ers were cruising along in their first round playoff series, dominating the Washington Wizards by 20-points per game through a 3-0 series lead. Things looked on track for a sweep through the first quarter of Game 4, when Joel Embiid went down with a knee injury. Ultimately the Sixers lost the game, and with it perhaps much of the momentum they’ve carried into this postseason.
According to reports, Embiid is out with a meniscus tear of that knee. He took some shots prior to Game 5, but there is no timeline for his return. Embiid is not scheduled to have surgery and will attempt to return with a therapy program, but the Sixers must be cautious with their franchise player. Forcing him back too early and causing longer-lasting damage would be disastrous.
For the Sixers, it is a disheartening blow to their championship chances. While they are certainly talented enough to still advance through the first round series with the Wizards, an Embiid-less Sixers roster lacks the firepower needed to compete with the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, and even the Atlanta Hawks.
NBA Championship 2020/2021
Mon, August 30 2021, 11:57 PM
Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Clippers
The Sixers were a value bet to win the Eastern Conference prior to the injury, but now the path for the Nets has become significantly easier. We will all hope Embiid returns to full strength soon for the sake of competition, but let’s not hold our breath.
Danny Ainge steps away
In one of the more far-reaching bits of news from across the league, Danny Ainge, the Boston Celtics' president of basketball operations, has announced his retirement. Head coach Brad Stevens has been promoted to the role as his replacement, meaning the Celtics will now be looking for a new coach.
Breaking: Danny Ainge is expected to step down as President of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics, sources tell @wojespn.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 2, 2021
Brad Stevens is moving into the front office on a full-time role and the Celtics are expected to start a search for a new head coach, per sources. pic.twitter.com/NmMcFm8CiC
Ainge had a significant impact on the Celtics franchise, being a catalyst for a number of different trades and acquisitions during his time in Boston. He was adept at acquiring draft stock, and positioned the Celtics well with their young talent. Things didn’t fall into place in 2021, but it is easy to envision a future in which the Celtics quickly return to prominence as contenders in the Eastern Conference.
For Stevens, it ends a tenure that never saw a championship, but certainly plenty of wins. In his eight seasons at the helm, he achieved a 57% winning percentage and 354 total wins, an impressive resume after inheriting a squad that went just 25-57 his first year. It will be fascinating to see whom he picks as his successor.
The Defending Champs are in Trouble
I said it before the playoffs began, but the Los Angeles Lakers might be one of the worst favorites we’ve had in modern NBA history. Now that Anthony Davis is continuing to battle injuries, they are on the brink of elimination.
The Phoenix Suns have been monsters against the spread this season, and are now up 3-2 in their first round series against the defending champions. Chris Paul is gutting through a shoulder injury, and Devin Booker is averaging 26.2 points per game against arguably the league’s best defense. Booker’s ascension has catapulted the Suns into contenders, but this is a well-rounded roster with Paul, former first overall pick Deandre Ayton, and veteran Jae Crowder. The Suns are legitimate contenders if they can stay healthy, and should prove capable of winning one of the next two games to finish off LeBron & Co.