There's "Optimism" That Joel Embiid Returns For Game 3

The Philadelphia 76ers need their big man in the worst way. After a couple of lopsided losses to the Miami Heat to begin their Eastern Conference semi-final, the Sixers have "optimism" that MVP-candidate Joel Embiid could return for Game 3 tonight. 

Embiid has cleared concussion protocol, and, according to NBA Insider Shams Charania, he's been fitted for a facial mask to protect his orbital bone fracture suffered in the final game of Philly's first-round series with Toronto. 

Charania says Embiid "will need to feel comfortable before (getting the) green light."

Tim Bontemps of ESPN reported that the Sixers' center participated in the team's shootaround on Friday morning, and has now been upgraded to "doubtful" for tonight. The team does say his status could change once again before game time. 

Embiid has played with a facial mask before, also after a facial fracture in the 2018 playoffs. 

"Hopefully he plays," said Sixer guard Tyrese Maxey. "If he plays, great. If he doesn't play, he doesn't play, and we're just preparing as [if it's] another game -- a game that we have to win." A loss would put Philly down 3-0 in the series. And we all know about the chances of NBA teams coming back from that deficit in a playoff series. Does 0-144 ring a bell? 

There's even a chance, according to one report, that Embiid could be receiving an award tonight

Photo Credit:  Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports