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Joel Embiid's body language during the Philadelphia 76ers versus Miami Heat Game 5 matchup wasn't inspiring. Considering all that the big man has been through over these last couple of weeks, it wasn't surprising to see that the five-time All-Star's body wasn't allowing him to dominate as he typically does.

"Sometimes, your body and whatever is going on, as you know, just won’t allow you to be yourself," said Embiid after Game 5. "In those moments, you just gotta keep pushing and hope for the best. But at this point, it’s all about just being there and just keep pushing.” 

Since Game 3 of the first-round series against the Toronto Raptors, Embiid has been battling a torn ligament in his thumb. While surgery is required for him to heal fully, Embiid put off the procedure until the offseason.

Two games later, Embiid suffered two more setbacks as he took an elbow to the face against Toronto in Game 6. After getting a concussion and an orbital fracture, Embiid was forced to miss Games 1 and 2 in the second-round series against the Miami Heat.

Embiid returned to the floor for Game 3 last week and has played in every matchup since. While he's been cleared for action, Embiid has a list of obstacles to overcome, including battling through pain and playing with a mask on his face.

Following Game 3, Embiid admitted that playing with a mask on would be a work in progress. Ahead of Game 5, Rivers discussed whether Embiid's custom-made mask had affected his vision at all, specifically when it comes to passing the ball.

“He hasn’t complained about that,” said Rivers on Thursday. “That’s something I just wouldn’t know. I’ve never worn a mask. I think his hand would be more of an issue passing than the mask. You know, having something on your face has to affect something — a little bit of your vision — but I just don’t know the answer to it.”

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When Embiid initially suffered his thumb injury, Rivers mentioned that passing would be difficult as he could relate to the thumb injury firsthand. Without surgery, Embiid will simply have to have a high tolerance for the pain. On Thursday, Rivers made it known that remains the case.

“[His hand] will not get any better," the head coach explained. "As I said on the first day, it will not get any worse. It will hurt when he gets hit, but it’s basically called gamekeeper's thumb, and it is what it is. It’s not going to get better no matter what you do, and it’s not going to get worse, I guess.”

While Embiid won't be anywhere close to one-hundred percent health-wise for the remainder of the 2022 NBA Playoffs, Rivers revealed that the star center is feeling as good as he could ahead of Philly's do-or-die Game 6 matchup in South Philly.

“He’s [feeling] good. We’re all good, thanks for asking,” Rivers joked. “We’re all good, and Joel’s good. He’s as good as he can be with all of the stuff that’s going on with him. He’s good, you know? He’s able to play, and we’re thankful for that. And he’s gonna give us what he can give, and we’re thankful for that."

The Sixers and the Heat will tip-off for Game 6 at 7 PM.

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.


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