April 27, 2023
The Boston Celtics finally took care of business against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6, which sets up the second-round battle we have all been waiting for. It is Sixers-Celtics in the playoffs for the 22nd time in the playoffs, the most meetings between a pair of franchises in the history of the NBA.
Here's what the schedule looks like for Sixers-Celtics.
Game 1 — Monday, May 1st, 7:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 2 — Wednesday, May 3rd 8:00 p.m. (TNT)
Game 3 — Friday, May 5th 7:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 4 — Sunday, May 7th 3:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5 (if necessary) — Tuesday, May 9th
Game 6 (if necessary) — Thursday, May 11th
Game 7 (if necessary) — Sunday, May 14th
Thanks to the Hawks pushing this series to six games, the Sixers got the advantage of more rest on the front end, which is presumably good news for Joel Embiid. The downside is that this series will be played every other day for basically the whole way, giving the Sixers very little time to rest and recover between games. That's something to keep an eye on for veterans on both teams, ranging from James Harden to Al Horford, in addition to what it means for Joel Embiid's recovery process.
As it pertains to the big man, Philadelphia has been guarded about Embiid's availability, with Doc Rivers coy about what he knows during sessions with the media. The overwhelming consensus, though, seems to be that Embiid should be ready to go at some point early in this series, with much of the reporting centered around nice words like "optimism" and "hope" rather than "crying in a corner" and "praying for a miracle from the flying spaghetti monster."
Anyone waiting for a formal update on Joel Embiid is probably going to be left wanting in the days to come unless Embiid decides to leak some news to a reporter in the days to come — Philadelphia will likely guard his status up until the moment they need to submit an injury report for next Monday's Game 1, trying to mislead the Celtics for as long as they can.
(To be clear, I don't think the deception will mean much of anything, as Boston is not going to be surprised if/when Embiid is available to play.)
If Philadelphia has to go into Game 1 next Monday without Embiid, it should be noted that the Sixers' record without the big man is up to a robust 12-5, which includes their Game 4 victory over the Nets in round one. They have managed to forge a coherent identity with and without him, which has been the focus during their first practices of the week in Camden.
"Let's say Joel is 100 percent, we're still going to have an hour of practice on how to play without Joel," Rivers said at practice on Tuesday. "Because those 10 or 15 minutes every game are probably the most important part of the game."
A matchup with the Celtics is sure to bring on some existential dread for the fanbase, who have seen the Celtics beat the Sixers during this era of basketball and frankly all throughout history. Boston holds a commanding 14-7 lead in the previous 21 series matchups. Philadelphia has not won a playoff series over the Celtics since 1982, when Andrew "The Boston Strangler" Toney dropped 34 points on Boston in a decisive Game 7. With homecourt in their possession, the Celtics will almost certainly be heavy favorites throughout the series — the Celtics opened at -320 to win the series, and -7 in Game 1.
We'll have some in-depth preview content over the weekend, but suffice it to say that there is a lot on the line for this one.
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