NBA Playoffs 2019: Winners and Losers from April 13th

NBA Denver Nuggets Paul Millsap (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
NBA Denver Nuggets Paul Millsap (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
3 of 5
NBA Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Winner: The Injury Bug

The injury bug struck two separate losers today, as Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid operated with obvious knee pain, and Toronto’s versatile wing O.G. Annunoby underwent an appendectomy. For the Sixers, the MVP-level play which became habit for Embiid was not present.

Aside from drawing fouls, Embiid really struggled offensively in the loss to Brooklyn on Saturday. His physical state was less-than-ideal and nobody even knew if the 7-foot behemoth would play in game one until moments before the opening tip.

He lacked his usual pop around the rim and failed to muster enough strength to hit NBA-length 3’s, as practically all of his five missed three-point attempts clanked off the front iron. To avoid a disastrous round-one exit, Philadelphia and Brett Brown will need a healthy Embiid. I know hindsight is 20/20, but the Sixers really should have sat Embiid today and made certain he was 100% ready to go, rather than forcing him on what is already a shaky knee.

The loss of Annunoby for Toronto obviously doesn’t have the same level of effect as an injury to Embiid does, but nonetheless, O.G. served an important role within Nick Nurse’s system. Throughout the regular season, Toronto dominated foes with its lethal combination of size and athleticism at the forward spots.

Annunoby was a key contributor in that sense. As a rangy, versatile forward with high-grade lateral quickness, O.G. brought off-the-dribble capabilities and reliable defensive effort at either forward spot. Without him, the Toronto bench is devoid of another player of his ilk. Norman Powell, at 6-foot-4, was required to play small forward for the 16 minutes Kawhi Leonard sat against Orlando.

For what Nurse likes to do, that was a significant downgrade on both ends of the court. Substituting Annunoby’s minutes for Powell also eliminates any effective small-ball lineups that would feature Leonard and Siakam at the four and five spots. Keep an eye on what the Raptors do with Annunoby’s minutes, because, with Leonard’s playing-time management, someone will have to fill in at small forward, and I’m not sure Powell will cut it.