Joel Embiid's left knee will be a question for the Philadelphia 76ers for the duration of their playoff run, but when he is on the floor, things go extremely well.
Embiid's presence is among the reasons why the 76ers are on the verge of advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals. And they have a shot to do just that Tuesday night when they host the Brooklyn Nets in Game 5 of their first-round series.
Philadelphia is attempting to reach the semifinals in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1999-2001 during the peak years of coach Larry Brown and Allen Iverson, a stretch that culminated in getting to the NBA Finals in 2001.
If Philadelphia is unable to close it out, the series will return to Brooklyn for Game 6 on Thursday.
The Sixers have won the last three games after getting booed by home fans in a 111-102 loss in Game 1 on April 13. Embiid totaled 22 points and 15 rebounds in the series opener but in the subsequent two games he has played, the center has been a force.
Embiid is averaging 25.3 points, 13.7 rebounds, 3.7 blocks and four assists while playing about 26 minutes per game. He also is shooting 51 percent from the floor, and the Sixers have outscored Brooklyn by 27 points when he is on the court.
"He was dominant," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said after Embiid made the pass to Mike Scott for the go-ahead corner 3-pointer with 18 seconds remaining in Game 4. "There were times you can see that it's still raw and there are some decisions that he probably would like to have over again but given the volume of playing time lately, that he hasn't had, it's just a dominant performance. What more can you say?"
"It was really important because we wanted to get this one and go home and try to finish it," Embiid said. "It feels great to be up 3-1."
Embiid is hardly the only Sixer giving the Nets fits.
Ben Simmons followed up 31 points in Game 3 with 15 points Saturday and has shot 18-of-25 in those games. Tobias Harris has scored 29 and 24 in the last two games while Butler scored 36 points in Game 1.
The Nets are facing the potential end of a season that surprised many. They were 8-18 through Dec. 5 but went 34-22 from that point to finish 42-40 and grab the sixth seed.
They won Game 1 by showcasing physicality but haven't had many answers for Embiid or anyone else. The Nets have allowed 170 points in the paint in the last three games and Philadelphia has shot 51.4 percent.
While Games 2 and 3 got away from the Nets in the third quarter, a fourth-quarter collapse doomed the Nets in Game 4. Brooklyn held a 101-94 lead with 5:20 left and then allowed an 18-7 run, shot 3-of-8 and committed five turnovers.
One of those turnovers was by Jarrett Allen when Simmons stole the ball from him with five seconds left as Embiid and Harris also surrounded the second-year center.
"For a lot of us, this is our first time playing big minutes in the playoffs," Brooklyn guard Spencer Dinwiddie said. "But we were right there 1/8in Game 4 3/8. We feel like we should've won. We weren't saying this was a learning experience when we won Game 1. So we can't fall back on that now. We need to try to pull off something incredible."
The Nets have never overcome a three games-to-one deficit in their NBA history.
Besides trying to stop Embiid, the Nets will hope to get a big night from D'Angelo Russell, who is averaging 22.3 points in the series but shooting 39 percent.
They also will hope to get continued production from Caris LeVert, who has 51 points in the past two games, and improved three-point shooting from Joe Harris, who is 3-of-16 from behind the arc after being the league's top 3-point shooter in the regular season.
Brooklyn might be without veteran forward Ed Davis, who is questionable with an ankle injury. Davis sat out Game 4 and has played 16 minutes since Game 1
--Field Level Media
Embiid, Sixers look to close out series against Nets
More TOP STORIES News