Philadelphia 76ers get huge news that could hurt Miami Heat's playoff chances

Joel Embiid is nearing his return to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers
Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

One of the Miami Heat’s biggest rivals could get a lot more dangerous soon.

Sidelined since Jan. 30 with a knee injury, Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid could return as soon as Tuesday when the 76ers host the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Embiid has completed multiple 5 on 5 scrimmages to clear an important benchmark.

That would put Embiid on track to play Thursday when the Miami Heat host the 76ers at Kaseya Center, adding even more drama to a game already with a lot at stake.

Embiid, the reigning MVP, was putting together another MVP-caliber season before sustaining a torn meniscus in a Jan. 30 game against the Warriors. If he can return to anything close to pre-injury form, the 76ers are a contender in the East.

As of Monday morning, the Heat are 1.5 games ahead of the 76ers for the No. 7 seed in the East. Winning Thursday’s game would nearly seal Miami’s spot ahead of Philadelphia for the postseason. 

If the Heat do have to participate in the play-in tournament, they would much rather host the 7-8 game than have to travel to Philadelphia and play in front of that crowd.

The Heat would also rather not have to go through Embiid to make the postseason, making their remaining eight games (including Thursday) and climbing out of the play-in tournament that much more important.

According to Basketball Reference’s playoff probabilities report, the Heat have a 22.9% chance of beating out the Pacers for the No. 6 seed and a 40.6% chance of remaining at No. 7. Playoff Status, another playoff odds tracker, gives Miami a 23% chance of getting No. 6 and a 37% chance of staying at No. 7.

If Embiid is healthy, Miami’s odds take a hit.

The good news for the Heat is that they are starting to get healthy. Duncan Robinson returned from a lower back injury in Sunday’s win over the Wizards and Kevin Love is available after missing time with a heel injury. Tyler Herro remains out but is ramping up from knee and foot injuries that have sidelined him since February.