The Philadelphia 76ers’ success against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference postseason’s second round — a matchup made official by the C’s 128-120 Game 6 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on April 27 — will hinge on the injury return of Joel Embiid according to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg.
“The Sixers will give the Celtics some headaches, particularly if Tyrese Maxey maintains his first-round efficiency (21.8 points per game while shooting 47.1 percent from the field and 50 percent beyond the 3-point arc),” Forsberg prefaced before saying, “But so much of Philadelphia’s success hinges on Embiid. The Sixers needed a monster night from him in their lone regular-season win, a game in which Boston played without multiple starters and still had a chance to win in the final seconds. Maybe Tobias Harris is a more consistent presence (though he typically just fades into the scenery). Maybe James Harden gets to the free-throw line frequently and leaves an imprint on the series. But the Celtics are a deeper team and hasn’t had much trouble putting up points against the Sixers.”
Embiid has a sprained LCL in his right knee and is expected to be re-evaluated later this week according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.
Al Horford is Boston Celtics fans’ ‘biggest reason to be optimistic’ for 76ers series
According to Forsberg, Al Horford, who averaged under six points per game during the Hawks series in the first round, is the “biggest reason to be optimistic” regarding the Boston Celtics playing the big man’s former team in the second round.
“Horford, who had an up and down defensive series as the Hawks put him in some tough spots in isolation, might just be the biggest reason to be optimistic about what comes next — or at least making sure the Celtics stay locked in against the Sixers,” Forsberg wrote.
Besides Embiid’s injury, Horford’s role in defending the paint against the team that signed him away from the Celtics in 2019 free agency will be the biggest deciding factor in the series, says Forsberg.
“Horford tends to produce his best basketball against Philadelphia,” Forsberg wrote. “Part of the reason the Sixers pursued him was to steal the leading authority on limiting Embiid. Nearing his 37th birthday, it’s unfair to expect Horford can singlehandedly quiet the MVP, but Embiid’s injury status and Horford’s desire will aid the Celtics in the most important matchup on the court in this series.”