June 04, 2021
The Sixers’ full second-round schedule for their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Hawks has been announced, and you can begin arranging your social calendars to watch them push for their first conference finals appearance in 20 years.
Here’s how round two is shaping up (home games in bold, italics for “if necessary”):
The structure of the series does not give Philadelphia as much time as they had during the Washington series to rest and recuperate, a factor that looms large with Joel Embiid fighting to return to play after the discovery of a small lateral meniscus tear. There are a couple of two-day breaks, however, with the Sixers getting two days off as the series transitions to Atlanta and then the full weekend off after next Friday's Game 3.
Whether that's enough to get Embiid back on the floor in fighting shape is completely unknown at the moment. This is a matchup that gets considerably tougher for Philadelphia if they don't have their walking mismatch creator on the floor, and though people around the team have expressed optimism about the situation, they have to walk a fine line between looking out for his long-term interests and seizing an opportunity to compete for a title this season.
Embiid, a hyper-competitive guy who has pushed back against minute limits and "load management" in the past, will surely be itching to play as soon as possible, and the best thing his teammates can do is take care of business and ease his mind. The last thing Philadelphia needs is for Embiid to feel the need to put himself at risk in order to save them from defeat, though that will be easier said than done, with Atlanta coming off of a strong performance against the Knicks in round one.
The quest to protect homecourt advantage begins Sunday afternoon. Buckle up.
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