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On the court, at least, Friday was relatively quiet, with the Grizzlies and Timberwolves being the only game on the schedule. But there was a significant piece of news on the injury front. On Friday, it was reported that Philadelphia would be without its MVP candidate for the foreseeable future due to a facial injury.
76ers lose Embiid to orbital bone fracture, concussion
While Philadelphia advanced to the NBA Playoffs’ second round with a blowout win over the Raptors on Thursday, the victory came with a significant price. As first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic, MVP finalist Joel Embiid suffered both a fractured right orbital bone and a mild concussion during Game 6. As a result, he will be listed as out with no timetable for returning to game action. Embiid was caught in the face by a Pascal Siakam elbow on a play that was initially deemed a foul on the 76ers center. The call was reversed after Doc Rivers decided to challenge, but the play was a costly one for Philadelphia and Embiid. Making matters worse was the fact that Philadelphia was up by 29 points at the time, leading many to question why Embiid was still in the game.
The severity of Embiid’s facial fracture was not disclosed, and this injury obviously puts Embiid in jeopardy of (at the very least) missing Game 1 of the 76ers’ series with the Heat, which is scheduled for Monday night. This has been a rough postseason already for Embiid on the injury front, as he was already playing with a torn ligament in his right thumb. It’s unknown if Embiid will need to undergo surgery to address the orbital bone fracture, and this will obviously have an impact on a possible timeline for return.
And this isn’t the first time that he’s suffered this specific injury. Embiid suffered a similar fracture late in the 2018 season after colliding with then-teammate Markelle Fultz, missing the final eight games of the regular season and the first two games of Philadelphia’s first-round series with Miami. He did undergo surgery in that case, returning to action 22 days later while wearing a custom mask. Embiid’s absence means that more will be required of James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris, with the former having his best game of the first round in Game 6 Thursday night.
As for who fills the void left by Embiid at the center position, Paul Reed served as his backup in the first round, averaging 4.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 0.3 3-pointers in 9.9 minutes per game. Veteran DeAndre Jordan did not play at all against the Raptors, but he stands to see rotation minutes in this series. Based upon those numbers, however, it’s obvious that neither Reed nor Jordan would be all too appealing in DFS, especially when faced with the task of going up against Bam Adebayo.
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Grizzlies 114, Timberwolves 106 (Memphis wins the series, 4-2)
The NBA Playoffs move into the second round, as the final first-round series came to an end Friday night. Minnesota blew another sizable lead at home, and it was Memphis’ supporting cast that did a lot of the damage. Desmond Bane (23/7/1/1/1 with five 3-pointers) and Brandon Clarke (17/11/5/0/3) were outstanding all series, proving to be solid DFS options on most nights. Dillon Brooks (23/3/2/1 with five 3-pointers) ultimately fouled out, but his 5-of-6 night from three was his best of the series.
Those performances, along with Jaren Jackson Jr. (18/14/1/1/2 with three 3-pointers) also stepping up, ensured that Memphis was not done in by Ja Morant (17/8/11/1/1 with five turnovers), shooting just 4-of-14 from the field. And we can’t overlook Tyus Jones (10/1/4/1 with two 3-pointers), who hit two critical 3-pointers during the fourth quarter. Memphis’ reward is a second-round series with the Warriors, and play will open Sunday afternoon at FedEx Forum. Clarke stands to be a key figure in this series, as the Warriors only have one true center in their rotation (Kevon Looney), and they’ve relied more upon a quintet that includes Draymond Green at center.
Whether Xavier Tillman (two points, three rebounds in 11 minutes) remains in the starting lineup will be interesting to see, as Steven Adams (who was ruled out for Friday’s game due to health and safety protocols) was able to have an impact in the regular-season matchups with the Warriors. In three games he averaged 6.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals, and 0.7 blocks in 21.5 minutes per game. Regardless of what Taylor Jenkins decides there, we should still see plenty of Clarke. On the perimeter, we’ll see if De’Anthony Melton (DNP-CD) gets another shot at rotation minutes, as he was passed by John Konchar (six rebounds and one steal in 10 minutes) and did not play in either of the last two games of this series.
Minnesota’s season came to an end in crushing fashion due to their inability to hold onto a lead. Lapses on both ends of the floor did in the Timberwolves on Friday, and D’Angelo Russell (7/1/4/3 with one 3-pointer in 27 minutes) was so poor that he wasn’t on the court in crunch time. Jordan McLaughlin (9/5/4/1) was Chris Finch‘s preferred point guard, which made perfect sense given his decision-making. Will Russell’s struggles in this series have an impact on his future in Minnesota, especially with the 2022-23 campaign being a contract year? That may be the biggest question that the Timberwolves’ front office will have to answer this offseason.
Anthony Edwards (30/5/5/2/2 with four 3-pointers) and Jaden McDaniels (24/4/0/0/1 with five 3-pointers) led the way for Minnesota, with the latter offering up the best game of his NBA career to date. Edwards finished the regular season as a fourth-round player in 9-cat formats, and that feels like his floor from a draft standpoint. Ranked 39th, he outperformed his Yahoo ADP (46.5), and the expectation of many is that he’s only going to get better with more experience under his belt. McDaniels didn’t offer much value fantasy-wise this season as he backed up Jarred Vanderbilt (2/4/0/1/1 in 12 minutes), but it’s fair to wonder if he’s turned a corner. That competition will be one to watch in training camp, as McDaniels was already a player that fantasy managers were willing to roll the dice on late in drafts ahead of this season (Yahoo ADP of 124.5).
Karl-Anthony Towns will once again be a first-round pick in fantasy, but the end to this season likely leaves a bad taste in his mouth. Friday night, he shot 6-of-19 from the field (missing three 3-point attempts), scoring 18 points with ten rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one blocked shot in 41 minutes. The regular season production will undoubtedly be there, but KAT will have to be more consistent in the «big» games if Minnesota is to make a move in the West. Patrick Beverley (10/4/3/2/1 with two 3-pointers) had a significant impact on the Timberwolves in his first season with the team and ranked just outside of the top-100 in 9-cat, but he won’t be drafted that high in most leagues this fall.
Minnesota played Game 6 without Naz Reid, who was out due to personal reasons, with Greg Monroe (2/2/1/2) logging seven minutes off the bench. Reid was a player that some fantasy managers were willing to take a late-round flier on ahead of this season, and he didn’t come through. With a Yahoo ADP of 142.5, Reid finished well outside of the top-200 in 9-cat. However, he has a team option for 2022-23, so the Timberwolves have a decision to make there.