Superstar rival of Nikola Jokic dealing with Bell's Palsy during playoff run

Denver Nuggets v Philadelphia 76ers
Denver Nuggets v Philadelphia 76ers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

While the Nuggets are taking care of busy and steadily cruising through their first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, teams around the NBA are locked in much tighter battles. One of those battles is taking place across the country between the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers.

The Knicks won games 1 & 2 in New York in dramatic fashion, but the Sixers were able to pull out game 3 back in Philly on Thursday night. They did so largely behind a herculean effort from their star big man, Joel Embiid.

Embiid was on an MVP pace earlier this season before tearing his meniscus and missing several months. He, of course, beat out Jokic for the MVP award last season, and it appears that will be the only thing stopping the Joker from having won four consecutive MVP awards.

But now, Embiid has returned from that injury and has been gutting it out in the playoffs. He doesn’t look 100% and his conditioning is clearly not up to snuff either. Despite that, he has been the Sixers’ best player and is essentially keeping them in the series.

Thursday night was his shining moment, as he dropped 50 points, leading Philly to their first playoff win of the season. But the performance was not without controversy. Early in the game, Embiid appeared to intentionally drag Knicks center Mitchell Robinson to the floor. 

It seemed like grounds for a surefire ejection but instead, Embiid was only issued a flagrant 1 and stayed in to dominate the rest of the game. On top of everything else that’s going on, it has now been revealed that Embiid has been dealing with Bell’s Palsy for over a week since colliding with teammate Kelly Oubre in the play-in win over the Heat.

Embiid’s face had looked a bit off and there was speculation that he was dealing with an eye issue. He had also been spotted wearing sunglasses regularly. Well, now we know why. It’s crazy that Embiid has been dealing with all of these different issues and has still managed to play the way he has. They’ll need even more from Joel if they hope to even up this series on Saturday.