May 07, 2019
Joel Embiid did not participate in Philadelphia's shootaround prior to Game 5 in Toronto, as the big man continues to battle an illness that impacted his performance during a poor Game 4 showing.
Embiid, who Brett Brown estimated was at "35 percent or 40 percent" during their loss to the Raptors on Sunday afternoon, didn't have much to say about his status as we head into Tuesday night's game. The little that was shared did not sound good.
"He's back at the hotel, he's not well. What it means to tonight, we'll learn more about later, and kinda that's the story," Brett Brown said following the conclusion of shootaround on Tuesday.
In the little we saw of Embiid following a tough Game 4 loss in Philadelphia, you could buy that he is battling something more than a simple stomach bug, as he was before Game 2 in Toronto. Embiid's sneezes lit up the locker room on Sunday, and as we would find out from Brown later, that was true before the game too, with the big fella wheezing all through the team's pregame film session. The normally vibrant big man barely got his voice above a whisper after Game 4.
The teammates who are traveling with him are on the outside looking in like the rest of us when it comes to a diagnosis — and if they're not, they certainly aren't gossiping about it with reporters — but there has been no hiding how sick Embiid is.
"I can look at him and tell how he's doing," Jimmy Butler told reporters Tuesday. "Hopefully, he gets his rest up, fluids, whatever he needs to do. But we want the man healthy, end of the day we want him healthy obviously. We want him to be out there battling with us, but I think health is more important than anything."
Butler, who noted he has stayed as far away from Embiid as possible because of his own inability to fight through illness, appeared to be taking the task of prepping for Game 5 seriously, Embiid or not. He continued to get extra shots up following the conclusion of shootaround, and he had a spirited one-on-one battle with his friend and Sixers development coach Remy Ndiaye while reporters waited to hear from Butler in advance of the team's biggest game in almost two decades.
Though Embiid is listed as probable for Tuesday's game as of this morning, counting on a guy who has to spend his morning resting at the hotel is a dicey proposition. The Sixers know their famously competitive centerpiece will do his best to gut it out if his body cooperates, but they know no excuses are going to be accepted if they don't have him for Game 5.
"You can tell that he wants to battle," Butler said. "He wants to be out there with his guys. He did that for us last game, we love and appreciate him for it, and I'll take him the same way tonight if need be. But with or without him, we gotta win."
"I think we perform better when our backs are against the wall. We're here on the road, they want to protect their home floor, we want to come in here and win. We're locked in, ready to do what we're going to do. Just go out there and compete man, play together, stick together through good and through bad, I'm taking our chances."
• There has been a lot of chatter about Ben Simmons' aggression level in Game 4 over the last couple days, and for good reason. His indecisiveness cost the Sixers at times in their most recent loss, and they need a different sort of Simmons to win in Game 5.
Simmons offered up his own hypothesis for part of the problem at shootaround Tuesday, saying that he has become so embroiled in the defensive battle with Kawhi Leonard that it becomes easy to lose sight of his responsibility on offense.
"I think mentally, I'm just so focused on defense that sometimes I lose track a little bit on offense, where I slow down a little bit and don't take advantage as much as I need to," Simmons said.
It's on Simmons to balance those priorities in Game 5 and moving forward, but as Butler noted following Sunday's loss, it's his job as his teammate to get on him and make sure Simmons doesn't allow himself to become a passenger in the game. He reiterated that message on Tuesday.
"It's tough, night in and night out to go out to have to go down there and guard the opposing team's best player like he's doing, and then going out there and score on offense," Butler said. "We just want Ben to continue to be Ben. He's a key part in us winning, he's a key part of the success, he has been all year long...we want [him] to attack. Take a few bad shots, I encourage it. Hell, take 10 of them. But make sure they know 'you gotta guard me' as well."
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