NBA scoring champion Joel Embiid has cleared league concussion protocols, the Philadelphia 76ers said Friday, but the Cameroonian center could still miss a crucial playoff game against Miami.
Embiid took part in a morning shooting practice session with the Sixers and while the team still listed him as out for Friday’s third game against the Heat, it also said his status could change before tipoff.
The 28-year-old 7-footer (2.13m) suffered a right orbital bone fracture and concussion when struck in the head by the elbow of compatriot Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors in the last game of Philadelphia’s first-round series victory.
Embiid was sidelined for the first two games of Philadelphia’s second round matchup at Miami, both losses for the Sixers.
The scene shifts to Philadelphia and the 76ers face a must-win situation, with no club in NBA history having ever recovered from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.
Embiid passing concussion protocols clears one hurdle for his return but he still must be cleared to play with the facial fracture, which would require him to wear a mask when on the court.
Embiid, a finalist for the NBA Most Valuable Player award, wore a mask after suffering a 2018 facial injury.
The Heat could still be without guard Kyle Lowry, who has missed four games with a hamstring injury. The Philadelphia native was upgraded to questionable on Thursday.
The 76ers-Heat winner will face either Boston or defending champion Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference finals for a berth in June’s NBA Finals.