Is Joel Embiid playing tonight? Raptors' hopes of a win could be snuffed out

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The Toronto Raptors are desperately hoping to win a basketball.

Their current streak of 12-straight losses has allowed them to fall down the standings and secure better lottery odds for the 2024 NBA Draft, but it's been a demoralizing journey. The available players, short-handed and outmatched, are playing hard and desperately trying to get a win.

The front office surely would like to keep their pick this season, but at some point the ignominy of a gigantic losing streak outweighs any improvements in ping pong balls. The entire organization is ready for a win to break the streak and ensure they don't go into the offseason losers of 21-straight games.

When looking at the Raptors' remaining nine games, two stand out as possible wins. One is a matchup with the Washington Wizards, but the Raptors just lost to Washington so that is hardly a guaranteed victory. The other game? Their Easter Sunday showdown with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Toronto Raptors hope to end their losing streak

The reason for optimism against Philadelphia is that the 76ers have been reeling over the past two months in the absence of their MVP center Joel Embiid. Prior to going down with a meniscus injury the reigning MVP was having one of the best scoring seasons in NBA history while also playing above-average defense inside. He was on track to repeat as league MVP, and the 76ers were right in the mix in the Eastern Conference.

They are now just 39-35, having gone 10-21 since Embiid went down to injury. The Raptors are 7-21 in that same span. That seems like the kind of team even these Raptors could overcome.

Unless, of course, Joel Embiid plays.

Joel Embiid might return tonight

Joel Embiid is now practicing with the team and reportedly looks like he is in game shape. There has been no official adjustment of his injury designation, but he is traveling with the team to Toronto. It would not be out of the question to see him warm up before the game and make his return in the 905.

If Embiid plays, even rusty and at less than 100 percent, all hope is snuffed out for Toronto. With Jakob Poeltl injured they simply don't have the horses inside to even slow Embiid down. It certainly doesn't help that Jontay Porter is away from the team due to an NBA investigation, Chris Boucher is out for the rest of the year and even two-way forward Mouhamadou Gueye is sick and out tonight.

That's the other massive reason the Raptors won't win tonight, perhaps even if Joel Embiid sits out: they continue to be massively short-handed. In addition to the players listed above, the Raptors will be playing without second-year wing Ochai Agbaji, two-way guard D.J. Carton and of course All-Star forward Scottie Barnes.

On top of that, Immanuel Quickley is still listed as out for "conditioning" reasons after a brief absence from the team, and RJ Barrett is listed as questionable for similar reasons. Without one or especially both of those players, the Raptors will be boatraced even if it's just Tyrese Maxey and Buddy Hield doing the destroying.

One of these days the Raptors will have a positive injury update. It just won't be anytime soon. It may be time to erase the circle around this game and just desperately hope they are more healthy when the Washington Wizards come to town.

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