What Does Joel Embiid's Return Mean For The Miami Heat Come Playoff Time?

Apr 6, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21); Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 6, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21); Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat's path to the postseason became much harder starting Tuesday as Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid returned from injury.

The reigning MVP was sidelined since Jan. 30 with a knee injury. His first appearance back came against the No. 3 seeded Oklahoma City Thunder, where he recorded 24 points, seven assists, and six rebounds on the way to a victory.

"Usually, when I have injuries, I just tell myself, move on to the next one, get better, and then fix it," Embiid said after his return Tuesday against Oklahoma City Thunder. "But this one took a toll mentally, being depressed ... It was not a good one.
"So, still not where I'm supposed to be, especially mentally, but I just love to play and love basketball and I want to play and any chance that I can be out there, I'm going to take it."

The Heat are facing off against the Sixers on Thursday night, with Embiid and guard Tyrese Maxey's status in question. This matchup is pivotal to each team's positioning in the standings, as the Heat are the No. 7 seed while the 76ers are eighth. Avoiding the Play-In Tournament is a crucial goal for both organizations in high-pressure circumstances.

"For some reason this injury was just ... It was disappointing," Embiid said. "It was depressing. It took me a while to get over it, and I still haven't gotten over it. So just got to take it day by day, look at the positive. I'm back. So, hopefully every single day, try to get better and get back to myself."

Embiid is at the peak of his powers, recording all-time numbers on the offensive end, but the team has no awards to show for it. The Sixers have not reached the Eastern Conference Finals a single time with the 30-year-old center on roster. Meanwhile, the Heat's championship window is closing as each year passes by. Despite young stars Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Jaime Jaquez Jr. under contract, veteran star Jimmy Butler is the glue to thank for their multiple Finals appearances.

The Heat's remaining schedule contains tough matchups with teams such as the Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks, which is yet another reason why winning Thursday's game is a must.

Anthony Pasciolla is a contributing writer to Inside The Heat. He can be reached atampasciolla@gmail.comor on Instagram @anthony.pasciolla

Anthony Pasciolla