Sixers' Joel Embiid has torn ligament in right thumb; Doc Rivers says 'nothing changes'

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Embiid's MRI confirms ligament tear; Rivers says 'nothing changes' for playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers did not receive any surprises Sunday.

After losing Game 4 of the team’s first-round series against the Raptors on Saturday in Toronto, Joel Embiid told reporters he believed he’d be able to play through the postseason on his injured right thumb. If an MRI confirmed surgery was required, Embiid said, he’d have that procedure after the playoffs.

Embiid got that MRI Sunday in Philadelphia.

“It just confirmed what we thought,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said. “But nothing changes, treatment’s the same. There literally will be no change. It’s what we thought it was, and so you just keep moving on.”

For whatever reason, Rivers technically evaded the specific question of whether Embiid’s injury is in fact a ligament tear — “I’ll let you figure that one out,” he said — but it’s been clear that’s the case. Indeed, at around the time Rivers concluded his media availability, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Embiid will have offseason surgery for that injury.

Embiid’s playoff injury luck has been poor. He missed the first two games of the 2018 postseason following an orbital fracture caused by a March collision with teammate Markelle Fultz. A left knee injury bothered him during the 2019 playoffs and led him to sit out one first-round game.

Last postseason, Embiid suffered a small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee. Again, he only sat a single game but was undoubtedly not in optimal health.

As was the case Saturday, eliminating the Raptors as soon as possible wouldn’t hurt. And the Sixers recognize that greater precision when Embiid is double teamed in the post will be necessary for Game 5 Monday night. Over the last two games, Embiid has five assists and 11 turnovers.

“We’ve gone over it,” Rivers said. “We walked over it today. It was a little bit frustrating (yesterday), because we know what they’re doing and it’s what we’ve worked on all year, and we were late on everything. And Joel probably passed too early on some, but our rotations were not very good.

“We had a very random offensive game last night. We weren’t as organized as we usually are. The traps, they’re so obvious where they’re coming from, and we have to hurt them for doing it. And we had … but now we’re not, and so we’ve got to get to the right places.”

Matisse Thybulle will be available for the Sixers, which should enable the team to expand its rotation back to nine players. Thybulle was ineligible for Games 3 and 4 in Canada because he’s not fully vaccinated.

All-Star Raptors guard Fred VanVleet was listed as questionable with the left hip flexor strain that forced him to exit Game 4 in the second quarter.