The Philadelphia 76ers start their Eastern Conference Semifinals series tonight versus their divisional rival, the Boston Celtics. Due to the Sixers’ first-round series sweep over the Brooklyn Nets, they have not played a game in over a week, which is in direct opposition to the Celtics who did not finish their first-round series until Thursday night. Rest versus rust is sure to be a hot topic early in this series, but there are clearly more important storylines heading into this second-round matchup.
Every discussion about this series must start and end with Joel Embiid. The presumptive NBA Most Valuable Player, and the most important player on the Philadelphia 76ers, is currently dealing with a sprained LCL in his right knee and his status for this series is in question. This knee sprain is the most recent injury in a slew of injuries that have affected the playoff availability and health of the Sixers All-Star in recent playoffs.
A healthy Embiid is likely necessary for the Sixers to defeat the Celtics and it sure does not seem like he will be 100%. So if cannot be the same player who put up 52 points against Boston in the most recent matchup, what version of Embiid will we see?
It is worth noting that the Boston Celtics own some serious real estate in the Philadelphia 76ers’ heads. Boston won three of the four matchups between the two teams this season and has sent Philly home in two of the last five postseasons. In those two series, the Celtics beat the Sixers 4-1 and 4-0. You can be sure the Sixers players are acutely aware of those records and with their leader not fully healthy, you have to wonder what that does to this team’s mental psyche.
Philadelphia 76ers Conference Semifinals schedule 2023.
Game 1: May 1st, 7:30 p.m. EST at Boston Celtics on TNT
Game 2: May 3rd, 8:00 p.m. EST at Boston Celtics on TNT
Game 3: May 5th, 7:30 p.m. EST vs. Boston Celtics on ESPN
Game 4: May 7th, 3:30 p.m. EST vs. Boston Celtics on ESPN
Game 5 (if necessary): May 9th, TBD at Boston Celtics on TNT
Game 6 (if necessary): May 11th, TBD vs. Boston Celtics on ESPN
Game 7 (if necessary): May 14th, TBD at Boston Celtics
The first thing this schedule says to me is the Sixers do not get much rest. Occasionally when the series changes cities, a travel day is built into the schedule for rest.; that is not the case here, likely because these two cities are about 300 miles apart on I-95. The only time there is an extra rest day is between Games 6 and 7.
Lack of rest is a negative for Embiid as he tries to pain manage his knee sprain, but this is the NBA playoffs where stars are born and there are no excuses. This will be the Sixers’ fifth attempt in their last six seasons at making the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the 2000-01 season. How much longer can we Trust the Process if they fail again this year?