Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid vowed to "keep pushing until I can't" in his pursuit of an NBA championship after returning from a knee injury in Sunday's shock loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
After sitting out the series-clinching win over the Washington Wizards due to a meniscus tear in his right knee, Embiid made his comeback in the 128-124 defeat to the fifth-seeded Hawks in the Eastern Conference semi-final opener.
Embiid, who hurt his knee in Game 4 against the Wizards, led all scorers with 39 points but his presence was not enough to help the top-seeded 76ers overturn a 26-point deficit at home to the Hawks.
"Playing on a torn meniscus is not easy," said Embiid, who was 12-for-21 shooting while also collecting nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal. "All I got to do is keep managing it. Do my best.
"Get as much treatment as I can. Try to manage it to make sure that it doesn't swell up too much. Obviously, the pain is going to be there. That's normal.
"But it's all about managing it, doing whatever it takes to win. Because my goal is to win the championship. I'm going to put my body on the line to make sure that happens. I'm going to give everything I got."
Game two Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/WPsEwCqSf6— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) June 6, 2021
MVP finalist Embiid added: "I can adjust to any style of play. We just played Washington that played fast. This team, they were physical. They play fast. I can adjust to it. It's the playoffs.
"You can't worry about how many minutes someone is supposed to play or is going to play. You got to go with your best guys.
"As long as I'm OK to be out there and I'm going to give my best and I'm going to keep pushing until I can't.
"But as long as I'm out there, I'm going to play hard. I'm going to dive for loose balls. I'm going to do whatever it takes to win."
Embiid played a team-high 38 minutes for the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center, where the hosts were upstaged by Trae Young (35 points and 10 assists) and the Hawks.
Tobias Harris (20 points and 10 rebounds) and Ben Simmons (17 points and 10 assists) both had double-doubles for the 76ers, while Seth Curry added 21 points as Philadelphia's bench struggled.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers was not happy with Embiid's game time, telling reporters: "I didn't like him in, even though we had to have him in.
"But when we were trapping and running around in that last three minutes and obviously we made a run, I did not like him on the floor at that point because I didn't want him doing those things, if you want to be honest. That's why we told him to just stand back. Because those are the ones that you get injured on."