Philadelphia 76ers stars Joel Embiid, James Harden to sit Monday game vs. Miami Heat

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia 76ers announced Monday that both Joel Embiid (back soreness) and James Harden (right hamstring recovery) would sit out the game Monday night against the Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat after playing Sunday night in the loss here to the Toronto Raptors.

With the team playing its third game in four nights, Philadelphia chose to use Monday to give both players the night off with an eye toward the playoffs -- something coach Doc Rivers has repeatedly said the team would do over the final few weeks of the regular season.

When asked Friday before the win over the Dallas Mavericks if Embiid and/or Harden could sit out at least one of the upcoming three games in four nights, Rivers simply said with a smile, "Possibly."

Embiid had been listed as questionable earlier Monday for a fourth straight game with back soreness -- as he had been before wins Wednesday in Cleveland and Friday over Dallas and the loss Sunday to Toronto. But he was later ruled out.

It will be just Embiid's fourth missed game for non-COVID-related reasons in what has been by far the healthiest season of his career -- something the MVP candidate has repeatedly said he's proud of. Embiid is averaging 29.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 58 games this season.

Harden, meanwhile, said after the game Sunday that he was expecting to play against Miami.

"That's the plan. I plan on playing," Harden said.

After not being listed on the injury report earlier Monday, however, the 76ers ruled Harden out about three hours before tip with right hamstring recovery -- the same thing that sidelined him in the other game he's been held out of since he started to play for Philadelphia last month, the second part of a back-to-back March 5 in Miami.

This is only the second game Harden has missed, however, since returning to action Feb. 25 in Minnesota, including playing both halves of a back-to-back in Orlando and here against Denver a week ago. In 11 games since being traded from the Nets, Harden is averaging 22.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 10.4 assists.