For the Philadelphia 76ers, Saturday night's road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was to be an important milestone.
The 76ers had hoped to play Joel Embiid on consecutive days for the first time since he missed 10 games with a bone bruise in his left knee.
But Embiid fell in Friday's 101-94 loss in New Orleans, throwing those plans into doubt.
"All plans were to play Joel tomorrow, but he fell awkwardly, so now we'll have to wait and see," Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said.
Before the 76ers left for the airport after Friday's loss, Embiid returned to the court to work on his shots after going just 5-of-16 from the floor and missing all three 3-pointers.
Embiid is 1-for-12 from behind the arc in the three games since his return on April 3.
Saturday's game in Oklahoma City originally was scheduled for Jan. 17 before the league's COVID-19 health and safety protocols left the 76ers without the league-minimum eight players available.
Rivers generally has been happy with the way his team has prepared mentally this season, but that wasn't the case Friday.
"I was just disappointed with how we approached the game mentally," he said. "I thought we lost this game upstairs. I thought this was a mental-weakness game for us."
Rivers hopes for a turnaround -- in result and approach -- Saturday in Oklahoma City, though he struggled to pinpoint the cause of the 76ers' sluggish performance Friday.
"If I was that smart, I swear I could probably triple my salary," Rivers said. "It happens. It just does."
While Philadelphia is working toward regaining consistency after going just 3-4 in its past seven games, the Thunder are just trying to snap their longest losing streak in six seasons.
Oklahoma City has dropped five consecutive games.
The Thunder have dealt with a spate of injuries, contributing to their recent struggles, but coach Mark Daigneault said his team should be getting some players back soon.
"Hopefully we have some reinforcements coming here with some more guys coming off of injuries pretty soon," Daigneault said. "We kind of dust ourselves off, get back up and get back to it."
The closest to return looks to be Darius Bazley, who hasn't played since March 4 with a bruised left shoulder. Bazley was upgraded to probable for Saturday's game.
The Thunder's roster makeover continued this week with the reported signing of Argentinian forward Gabriel Deck and waiving of forward Darius Miller. The Athletic reported Deck's signing.
Deck, 26, had been playing for Spanish club Real Madrid, averaging 8.5 points and 3.6 rebounds a game.
Deck would be the latest player Daigneault has to work into the rotation.
"We've got guys that came in from trades, we've got guys on 10-day (contracts)," Daigneault said. "The first and foremost thing we're trying to evaluate is just competitiveness, and are they tied into the team. That's just foundational identity-type stuff -- are we competing and are we playing together? That's gone in and out at times, but over the course of the last month or so, that's been there."
--Field Level Media
FROM THE ARCHIVES