The Philadelphia 76ers are getting set to take on the Miami Heat in game one of the second round of the NBA playoffs tonight at 7:30. The Sixers managed to make it out of the first round after two rough games. This series will prove to be a much tougher one as they’ll go up against the first seeded team in the East. It will make it that much more difficult for them as their star center Joel Embiid is out for at least the first two games of the series.
Joel Embiid’s multiple injuries have finally taken him off the court for the time being. The first injury was caused by an orbital (bone surrounding the eye) fracture thanks to an elbow to the face by Pascal Siakam in round one, but that isn’t what’s keeping him out. He is under concussion protocol after taking a few hard hits in the previous series, so he is required to be out for at least five days. This allows him to come back in game three, but it is unclear at this time if he will need a longer recovery. Joel Embiid’s absence is an insanely huge loss, even if it’s just for two games. Other players on the team like Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, James Harden, and Paul Reed will have to step up if the Sixers want to take at least one of the first two games.
James Harden will have an insane amount of pressure on him for the first two games, and we’ll need to pray he can perform under pressure. In Houston, Harden was doing insane things carrying a very lackluster Rockets team throughout the playoffs. If he can channel some of what he was able to do back then, the Sixers could have a good shot at winning this series. In the last game of the Raptors series, Harden came up huge with a 22 & 15 performance, and he got the Sixers going right out the gate. If it wasn’t for his first quarter performance, the outcome of that game could’ve been very different. Even when, or if, Embiid returns, we’ll still need to see this side of Harden throughout this series.
Tyrese Maxey is also going to be a pretty big factor in deciding the outcome of the series. So far, it looks like he hasn’t cracked under pressure, but his biggest test is yet to come. Regardless of if we win or lose, none of the blame can be put on him unless he’s downright awful. Maxey could easily average over 25 PPG over the first two games without Embiid. If he can do this on efficient shooting, we may have a good chance at splitting the games in Miami.
This will be a really physical matchup, and the Sixers are going to have to be prepared for it. Miami’s stacked roster consisting of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, and many more stars will be a much tougher squad to beat than Toronto’s. If the Sixers were to steal this series, it’ll be in no less than six games. Tonight’s game will be very telling as to how well the Sixers have prepared without Embiid. Hopefully, they can pull off the upset tonight, and give us an opportunity to clap our hands.
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