It's not often in pro sports that the door to a championship just seems to swing wide open, but the Sixers are looking at wide open french doors. Going into the playoffs the biggest concerns for the Sixers out of the East were the Nets and the Bucks. Now Kyrie Irving is out for the foreseeable future, James Harden is on one leg, and the Nets are on the verge of eliminating the Bucks problem, not that the Bucks are playing inspiring basketball at the moment anyway. The only thing remaining in the Sixers way from reaching their first Finals appearance since 2001 is Kevin Durant, a pesty Hawks team, and of course injury. Joel Embiid is playing with a torn meniscus, but you wouldn't know it by watching him. Averaging 30PPG/13RPG/4.5ASTS in 35 minutes per game. How long can he keep this up before his injury catches up to him though? If game 5 is any indication so far it's going to take awhile. Hopefully it never does.
Now the first step through those wide open doors is beating this Hawks team. The series is tied up 2-2 at the time of this blog and Philly is staring at a pivotal game 5 at home. This game is going to make or break this championship run. Win and you give yourself a chance to close the series out in Atlanta and hopefully rest some guys (Embiid) up for the Eastern Conference Finals. Lose and you face a very real threat of Atlanta closing you out at home in 6. Many people underestimated this Hawks team going into this series, me included. This team is no joke however. Trae Young is a star. He may be struggling to find his shot this series, but his passes are on a tight rope right now. 18 assists in Game 4 is proof of that. Bogdanovic is a stud, and guys like Capela and Collins have been a steady supporting cast. These next few games are going to be a challenge, but this series should be won.
Advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Sixers are looking at either a banged up Brooklyn team, or an underwhelming Milwaukee Bucks team. Kyrie's ankle sprain is severe and if it doesn't keep him out the rest of the playoffs it will hamper him. It's already evident Harden's hamstring is hampering him. The biggest problem in a Nets matchup will be Kevin Durant, and god damn is he a problem. Love him or hate him KD is the best basketball player in the world. When he's on no one in the world can stop him. He proved just that in Game 5. On the other hand Giannis is struggling immensely this playoffs and has needed his team to carry the load. If Middleton or the rest of the supporting cast have an off night, Milwaukee is done. Embiid will be able to get into the paint at will against both these teams. Simmons and Co. should be able to bother Middleton, who is more important to shut down than Giannis at this point, and maybe slow down KD just enough times to win. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself here as the Hawks still need attending to.
It's going to be interesting to watch if the the Sixers take advantage of this golden opportunity in front of them, or if they squander it like Philly teams historically do. I for one hope to see the red, white, and blue in the Finals again for the first time since Allen Iverson stepped over Tyron Lue. I am on record saying that as long as Ben Simmons is your number 2 and can't shoot you will never win a championship, but that doesn't mean you can't make one. Hopefully I'm proven wrong about the former.