As the Philadelphia 76ers‘ second-round playoff series with Trae Young and the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks draws ever nearer, fans continue to agonize over Joel Embiid’s status for Game 1. They’re well within their rights, too — the sharpshooting Hawks could pose a real threat to Philly if he’s out for an extended time.
The talking heads have already sunk their teeth into a potential upset. For his part, ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins has essentially guaranteed that Atlanta will end the Sixers’ title bid. Meanwhile, TNT’s Shaquille O’Neal took his own prediction a step further, saying that the Hawks would do the deed in just five games.
Again, the big qualifier here is Embiid either missing a significant portion of the series or being severely limited in his return. However, there is still a chance that neither of those things will come to pass.
While a meniscus tear is nothing to be trifled with — it can require surgery and a lengthy rehab process afterward — the Sixers made it clear that Embiid had suffered only a “small” tear. The specifics of the injury are known only to Embiid, his squad and Sixers doctors, but hope remains that he’ll be able to play through it.
On Friday, Sixers coach Doc Rivers may have fostered that hope.
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Rivers Gives a Post-Practice Update on Embiid
After his team’s latest practice, Rivers revealed that his All-Star big man participated in a limited capacity. He made a point to say that Embiid is sticking to the team’s treatment plan and taking it easy but also offered an encouraging assessment of what he saw from him.
“He went through a lot of the stuff today – didn’t do a lot of live stuff, obviously, [because] we’re not going to allow that yet,” Rivers said, via the Bucks County Courier Times. “Nothing’s changed. He’s got to go through his treatment. As far as when we were doing shooting and stuff like that, he looked great.”
Obviously, there is a world of difference between 5-on-5 and shooting drills. But the fact that Embiid was out there at all given his meniscus tear may bode well for a possible return. Still, Rivers was unwilling to speculate on when said return might occur.
“It’s too early,” he said. “I don’t want to say one way or the other, so we’ll just find that out.”
Sixers-Hawks During the Regular Season
The Sixers took two out of their three games from the Hawks during the regular season. In late April, they won back-to-back home games over Young’s crew by an average of 33 points. However, the former No. 5 overall pick and 2020 NBA All-Star missed the April 28 game with an ankle injury.
Philly’s defense was on-point against Atlanta, which was held to just 101.7 points per 100 possessions over the three games. The Hawks connected on just 38.2% of their field goal attempts along the way, while the Sixers racked up 16.6 combined blocks and steals per contest.
Having said that, Embiid was active for every game against the Hawks, who also went on to win seven of their last eight regular-season games after the double-dip with Philly. Over that span, they posted a net rating of 12.7 and an effective field goal percentage of 58.9.