NBA MVP Joel Embiid won’t play in 76ers-Heat Christmas game because of ankle issue

Embiid got hurt during Friday’s win over Toronto.

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid (left) tries to get by Toronto Raptors' Dennis Schroder (center) and Jakob Poeltl during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 22, 2023, in Philadelphia

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid (left) tries to get by Toronto Raptors' Dennis Schroder (center) and Jakob Poeltl during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 22, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid will not play in Philadelphia’s Christmas night game against the Miami Heat, with the 76ers ruling him out because of a sprained right ankle.

Embiid did not fly with the Sixers on Sunday to Miami. He got hurt during Friday’s win over Toronto.

It’ll be the fourth game Embiid has missed this season for the 76ers, who are third in the Eastern Conference and fourth overall in the NBA, entering Monday with a 20-8 record. He has been on a tear in December, averaging 40.2 points and 12.6 rebounds on 61% shooting in nine appearances so far this month.

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For the season, Embiid is averaging a league-best 35 points per game — on pace right now to win his third consecutive scoring title. He’s had at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in each of his last 13 games, the NBA’s longest such streak since 1972 when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it in 16 straight contests.

Embiid played most of Friday’s game against the Raptors after hurting the ankle while trying to block a shot midway through the first quarter. He was scoreless at that point, had 11 points by halftime and scored 20 more in the second half.

The team evaluated Embiid’s status over the weekend and determined that him playing Monday wouldn’t be wise. It’s possible he could rejoin the team for its game Wednesday at Orlando.

The Heat may be without Jimmy Butler on Monday. Butler has missed Miami’s last two games with a calf strain and did not practice Sunday, though he was listed as questionable for the nationally televised matchup against the 76ers.

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Embiid’s absence makes the Heat-76ers game the only one on the NBA’s Christmas quintuple header slate that won’t feature a previous winner of the MVP award. The Milwaukee-New York game includes Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Denver-Golden State game has Nikola Jokic for the Nuggets and Stephen Curry for the Warriors, the Los Angeles Lakers’ game against Boston has four-time MVP LeBron James and the Phoenix-Dallas nightcap includes Suns forward Kevin Durant.

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