WASHINGTON — On pace for their best season and first conference championship in two decades, the Philadelphia 76ers are suddenly “praying” for the health of their best player.
Joel Embiid scored 23 points but departed midway through the third quarter following an apparent leg injury in the 76ers’ 127-101 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday night.
Embiid, an MVP candidate for his role on the Eastern Conference-leading Sixers, was in his first game back following a week-long absence for contract tracing. He entered Friday averaging 30.2 points and 11.6 rebounds.
He had also grabbed seven rebounds before his exit with 6:20 left in the third.
“It looked like a hyper-extension. That’s what we all hope it (is),” said fellow starter Tobias Harris. “We’re just praying that he’ll be OK and be healthy tomorrow.”
Following a dunk for his last points, Embiid landed awkwardly on his left leg, his knee joint appearing to bend slightly forward. He writhed in pain on the floor for several minutes, and a stretcher was briefly brought onto the court, but the center eventually limped off under his own power.
Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said Embiid would be examined Saturday in Philadelphia.
“We don’t do anything right now, because we don’t have any information,” Rivers said. “Listen, it’s a long season. At the end of the day, hopefully it’s not something where we lose him, obviously. But our guys will be good. We’ll be ready.”
Even with Embiid’s exit and Ben Simmons also out for contact tracing after both players were exposed to the same barber who tested positive for COVID-19, the 76ers cruised to a second straight comfortable win following the All-Star break.
Shake Milton scored 18 points off the bench for Philadelphia, which led by 17 after the first quarter, 10 at halftime and 18 after the third.
Furkan Korkmaz added 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter as the Sixers completed a three-game season sweep of the Wizards. Philadelphia outrebounded Washington 49-32, and had a 56-38 advantage in bench points.
“I thought our guys did a pretty good job focusing,” Rivers said. “I thought it took us a couple minutes (after the injury) to get going, but once we did I thought we took care of the game.”
Russell Westbrook scored 25 points and Bradley Beal added 19 for the Wizards, who lost their second straight after the break and had their home win streak against the Sixers snapped at 10 games.
“We’ve got to get back to defending,” Beal said. “We can’t guard nobody right now again. We’ve got to get back to guarding people.”