February 6, 2023

What to watch as Round 2 shifts back to Philadelphia as 76ers face Hawks in Game 5

Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers blew an 18-point lead Monday night and allowed the Atlanta Hawks to even the second round series between the teams at 2-2.

They’re back in Philadelphia for game five, though, and again can move to one win from the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday. The implications of a loss would obviously be less pleasant. 

As has been the case for every game this series, Joel Embiid is questionable with a small right lateral meniscus tear. Sixers head coach Doc Rivers indicated Tuesday his concern about Embiid’s health hasn’t surged after the MVP runner-up’s 4-for-20 night from the floor in game four.

“We wouldn’t put Joel out there if he couldn’t play,” Rivers said. “Obviously he’s not going to be exactly what he was all the time with the injury, but I’ll take what we have. So I have no concern.”

Trae Young is probable with right shoulder soreness.

Here’s what to watch:

No need for “hero ball”

Rivers on Monday thought the Sixers played too much “hero ball” in the second half of game four. While looking back at the film, he saw that as a large problem.

“The whole team,” he said. “I showed guys every single guy at some point standing with their hands up like, ‘Throw me the ball.’ Actually today, I showed all five guys at some point had that statue position. 

“Listen, it happens a lot of times because you want to win the game, and so each guy thinks he’s going to win the game. So it’s not a real selfish thing, but it’s selfish basketball. … It’s not like a guy was being selfish; he was trying to win the game. But we don’t need that. We need to do our jobs. We don’t need to do more than our jobs.”

Even with Embiid’s knee injury, the Sixers have more talent than the Hawks. Recording only six assists in another half would likely be costly, though. 

Does Rivers stick with Korkmaz?

Furkan Korkmaz started game four in place of Danny Green, who’s out with a right calf strain, scoring 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting.

“I thought he was up and down,” Rivers said. “I thought he had some really good stretches. What I love about him is he’s a home run hitter. He’s going to take the shot when he gets it. You need guys like that in the playoffs, so that part I like. Overall, defensively, I thought he was actually very good. He held his ground. So yeah, he wasn’t bad at all.”

If Rivers had gone with Matisse Thybulle instead, Ben Simmons and Thybulle presumably would’ve guarded the Young-Bogdan Bogdanovic backcourt. Rivers put Seth Curry on Bogdanovic beginning in game three, and he thinks Curry has managed that matchup well. 

“We thought in both games, overall, Seth’s done pretty good on him,” Rivers said. “I think he had a big drive late that hurt us, if my memory serves me right. But other than that, I thought he did pretty well. I still think he got too many open looks, but that was more in transition.”

Looking for the open man

The Sixers in game four forced a season-low four turnovers and, not coincidentally, scored just five fast-break points.

Their half-court offense struggles were conspicuous but the lack of relief was a problem, too. If the Sixers can at least force double-digit turnovers again in game five, it would go a long way. 

Though Embiid’s individual dominance has often saved the Sixers, they were a middling half-court team during the regular season. According to Cleaning the Glass, they ranked 14th in points per 100 half-court plays (97.1). The Sixers scored 91.1 points per 100 half-court plays on Monday. 


When: 7:30 P.M. E.S.T.

Where: State Farm Arena

Broadcast: TNT

Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

Social media coverage: Philly Sports Reports’ Twitter & Instagram.

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