Joel Embiid's injury opens door for Wizards in playoff series, but how wide?

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Embiid's injury opens door for Wizards, but how wide? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The calculus has changed between the Wizards and Sixers in their first round playoff series. To what degree is the question.

The Sixers announced Wednesday afternoon that MVP finalist Joel Embiid has a "small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee," per the Sixers. He will miss at least Game 5 and is considered day-to-day.

If that's all his injury amounts to, then it may not tilt the series much at all. The Sixers are up 3-1 and are still very talented without him, as they showed in Game 4 after Embiid left in the first quarter. They pushed the Wizards to the brink before eventually fading in the final minute.

But day-to-day could mean many different things if you consider the final three games of this series, the latter two being only if necessary, fall within a five-day span. Sometimes day-to-day turns into a week.

Also consider the history of meniscus tears in the NBA. A sports medicine study in 2012 looked at 129 cases over 21 years and found the average time missed was 40 days. A timeline anywhere close to that would likely derail any hopes they have of a deep playoff run, much less a championship.

Philly still has a deep roster highlighted by Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris. Even if Embiid were to miss the rest of the series, they may be able to close out the Wizards without him. Washington is trying to climb a mountain no NBA team has before by coming back from down 0-3 in a playoff series.

Teams that take a 3-0 lead are 141-0.

But few teams in today's game rely on one player as heavily as Philly does with Embiid. He led the NBA in usage rate this season, which means Philly ran a higher percentage of their plays through one player than any other team. Philly went 39-12 when Embiid played this season compared to 10-11 when he was out.

Embiid coincidentally had his longest absence this season after injuring his left knee against the Wizards in March. Simmons also happened to suffer a season-ending injury against the Wizards the year before.

This is supposed to be the Sixers' year. Embiid had long flashed potential of superstardom, but had yet to put it together quite like he had this season. Now he's the best player on a team that earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Embiid draws so much attention on offense, he creates opportunities for others, namely shooters like Danny Green and Seth Curry. And he is such a dominant force on defense, he controls the paint and makes opponents think twice about attacking the rim.

There is no question him being out will dramatically change the Sixers' plans. Can the Wizards take full advantage?

Full coverage of Game 5 starts at 6 PM on Wednesday on NBC Sports Washington.