The Philadelphia 76ers completed their sweep of the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday despite the absence of Joel Embiid. It was Tobias Harris who answered the call, continuing his strong postseason with a 25-point, 12-rebound effort to close out the Nets.
Now the Sixers await the results of the Celtics-Hawks series, with Boston currently leading 2-1 ahead of Sunday’s Game 4 in Atlanta. Even if Boston closes out the series with a five-game gentlemen’s sweep (which feels very likely), the Sixers should at least get a week of rest before the second round commences.
So, what did we learn from the Nets series and what factors will be key to determining their success for the remainder of the playoffs?
3 key factors for 76ers’ success moving forward in NBA playoffs
1. Joel Embiid’s health
Let’s start off with the, shall we call it obvious, factor. Joel Embiid suffered a sprained right knee in Game 3 and is currently 50-50 to return by midweek, according to Sixers coach Doc Rivers. Basically, Embiid is 50-50 (or less) to return by the start of a potential second round with Boston — especially if the Celtics make quick work of Atlanta.
So, for the next however many days, Philly fans should all swallow their pride and cheer like hell for Trae Young and the Hawks. Hey, you could essentially thank Atlanta for making the whole James Harden thing happen, in a way. But whether you can stomach Hawks fandom or not, the Sixers would greatly benefit from an improbable Atlanta run and a long first round series for the Celtics.
It goes without saying that the Celtics would make quick work of the Embiid-less Sixers. Boston is a tough matchup for Embiid (and the Sixers in general), but Philadelphia has the ability to compete if their MVP candidate is playing MVP-caliber basketball or warping the defense in such a way that his teammates can go off, like the first three games of the Brooklyn series.
The Sixers need Joel Embiid. Plain and simple. This sprained knee is latest in a long line of unfortunately timed late-season injuries for the All-Star center. Hopefully he gets right soon and can author a different story this time around.