No plans to shut down Joel Embiid after latest injury scare

NEW YORK — Following a second brief injury scare involving superstar center Joel Embiid in just over a week, Philadelphia 76ers coach Nick Nurse said after Saturday night’s 111-104 Game 1 loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden that there are no plans to shut down the reigning MVP.

“He really is a warrior, and he’s battling,” Nurse said of Embiid.

“I think he absolutely wants to play.”

Embiid briefly exited the game for the final 2:37 of the first half after a remarkable play that saw him throw down a ridiculous one-handed dunk after passing the ball to himself off the backboard.

Embiid, who led all scorers with 18 first-half points, was at the free throw line with Mitchell Robinson guarding him when he dipped under the Knicks center, fired the ball off the backboard and, all in one motion, leaped in the air, caught it with his right hand and slammed it through the hoop.

But when Embiid came down, he landed on his left leg and immediately went down to the floor. Play continued, with the Knicks getting a layup at the other end, before Philadelphia could call timeout and take a look at him. After an extended period on the court, Embiid eventually got to his feet and slowly walked off directly to the Philadelphia locker room under his own power, remaining there for the rest of the first half.

It was a moment eerily reminiscent of Embiid’s exit from a game eight days ago against the Orlando Magic when he drove to the basket in the final two minutes of the first half, scored, went down, walked off under his own power then returned to the floor for the start of the third quarter.

And like in that contest, Embiid returned to the bench just before the start of the second half and rejoined his teammates on the floor.

“I knew when I went in at halftime that they were checking him out,” Nurse said. “And that he was up and moving. And they did say we are seeing. They didn’t rule him out yet. They just took him all the way to the end there to get him ruled back in.”

Embiid declined to talk to the media after the game.

He finished the game with 29 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals in 37 minutes, and Philadelphia was plus-14 in his time on the court — meaning it was outscored by 21 points in the 11 minutes he was on the bench. However, after Embiid scored 15 points on 5 for 9 shooting in the first quarter, he had 14 points on 3 for 13 shooting over the final three quarters, including going 2-for-11 in the second half.

During that Orlando tilt last week, Embiid also struggled after halftime, going for 11 points on 4 for 11 shooting.

Saturday’s outing was Embiid’s seventh since returning to the court following a procedure on the lateral meniscus in his left knee in early February.

“Nothing with Joel surprises me now,” said Tyrese Maxey, who led Philadelphia with 33 points in Game 1. “He’s always a fighter. He’s always going to try and give it his all for his team. So, if he thinks he can go, he’ll for sure be out there.”

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