James Harden (Achilles) sits; Joel Embiid exits 76ers' rout early

ByJamal Collier ESPN logo
Thursday, March 23, 2023

CHICAGO -- Despite missing star guardJames Harden-- and MVP candidate Joel Embiidfor the second half --the Philadelphia 76erscruised to a comfortable116-91 win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.

After scoring 12 points in the first half, Embiid sat out the rest of the game with mild right calf tightness. Harden did not play because of Achilles soreness.

Afterward, Sixers coach Doc Rivers said he did not have any long-term concerns for both players, noting the team was just being cautious. He expects them both to play in Philadelphia's next game on Friday against the Golden State Warriors.

"We've gone in the playoffs two years in a row with injuries and we all know you don't win in the playoffs when your key guys aren't healthy," Rivers said. "So we're going to do whatever we can to be healthy."

Embiid played a season-low 16 minutes because of the injury but was 5-of-7 shooting as the Sixers built a 28-point halftime lead, their largest of the season. He snapped his streak of scoring at least 30 points in 10 straight games, the longest streak in team history.

Embiid said he initially injured his calf during Monday's game, also against the Bulls, so when he felt some discomfort in the first half Wednesday, he wanted to be extra cautious. He did not return to the bench in the second half and instead received treatment on his calf.

Embiid said it is likely he will be able to play Friday, but reiterated that being healthy for the postseason is his main goal.

"We've already clinched the playoffs, it's all about making sure we're going to be healthy for them," Embiid said. "If it feels good, of course I want to play, but if it's not right, then we gone figure it out."

Rivers said Harden was feeling some discomfort in his left foot on Monday, when he scored five points on 2-of-14 shooting in 46 minutes in the double-overtime loss to the Bulls.

According to Rivers, Harden's injury is something he has been dealing with, and the team decided to rest him out of caution. Rivers also expects Harden back on Friday, but couldn't guarantee it, saying that if Harden is in any discomfort, the team will allow him to rest.

"No concerns," Rivers said of Harden's injury earlier Wednesday. "It just flared up a couple times and we decided instead of doing the back-and-forth, the dance, let's just sit him down, get him rest and make sure he's right."

The Sixers were also without forward Jalen McDaniels (hip) on Wednesday.

Harden is averaging 21.4 points, 10.8 assists and 6.3 rebounds in 53 games for Philadelphia this season. Aside from sitting twice on the second night of a back-to-back, he has played in every game for the Sixers since the All-Star break.

The Sixers now head to the West Coast for a three-game road trip, starting with the Warriors matchup on Friday, before facing the Phoenix Suns on Saturday and Denver Nuggets on Monday.

"Especially going into the playoffs, you just want guys to be right," Rivers said. "No reason to take any chances."