The Philadelphia Sixers will face off against the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of 2021 NBA playoffs after both teams escaped the first round after winning five games. It was somewhat expected for the Sixers to beat the Wizards simply because they had a lot more firepower on offense and were a deeper team.
On the other hand, the Hawks surprisingly beat the Knicks in five games even though they had the home-court advantage. The Hawks were clicking on all cylinders, led by Trae Young, who had a tremendous series torching the Knicks in his first career playoff series. He saluted them with a bow causing a whole lot of frustration from the Knicks fans.
The Hawks are once again the underdog against the Sixers; however, the most significant question mark surrounding this series is whether Joel Embiid can get healthy and return in the starting lineup. Embiid suffered a meniscus injury and missed the fifth game against the Wizards, but the Sixers are hopeful he would return in the first game against the Hawks.
The first game between the two teams is on Sunday, and it will be interesting to see if the Hawks can give their fans another pleasant surprise. The Sixers are a dominant defensive team with several players capable of covering multiple positions, and they will make sure they make Trae's job scoring the ball a lot harder than usual.
If Joel Embiid is cleared to play in the first game, the Sixers are a clear favorite and could be favored by more than the three points they’re currently getting for Game 1. However, the Hawks are not without a chance because you can never dismiss a well-coached team with multiple players that can hurt you offensively.
When it comes to playoff basketball, it's all about the matchups and making proper adjustments at the right time. We've seen players that played significant minutes in the first game, but then after that, the coaching staff considers another player that would work better against the opposing team and the sets they are running.
The Sixers will need to have a mindset Joel Embiid won't play at all in this series and showcase they can do it without the big men. Ben Simmons has picked up offensively, Tobias Harris is a pleasant surprise all season long, while Curry and Green provide the much-needed three-point scoring. If Embiid comes back healthy, the Hawks will have a lot of trouble this series since the MVP candidate already showcased against the Wizards why he is one of the most dominant players.