Sixers vs. Hawks series Game 1: 3 storylines to watch

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Doc Rivers cites Belichick, says Sixers 'want the entire cake' originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Exactly two weeks after they kicked off their playoff run, the Sixers will begin another series.

They’ll play the Hawks on Sunday in Game 1 of Round 2 at Wells Fargo Center. Joel Embiid (right lateral meniscus tear) is in the Sixers' starting lineup. 

The game will tip off at 1 p.m. ET on ABC. Sixers Pregame Live will air at 12:30 p.m. on NBCSP+, while Sixers Postgame Live will air on NBCSP+ following the game.

Here are three storylines to watch for Game 1: 

Where have we heard that before? 

Former Sixers head coach Brett Brown often talked about boosting his team’s “health and spirit” so that it was possible to “land the plane.” He’d use the saying when an unfortunate injury or other obstacle arose, indicating his priority was peaking in the playoffs. 

Doc Rivers, Brown’s successor, brought back the familiar phrase Saturday in the context of perspective from Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, not the most well-liked figure in the Philadelphia area. 

“If your goal is to get out of the second round, how low are your goals? Really. That’s not my goal,” Rivers said. “If that happened and that’s all you get, that’s not successful for me — or hopefully our team … hopefully our city. We want more. We want the entire cake. You have to put your heart on the line to do that. You do. 

“As Bill Belichick always told me, you’re going to have one of two things in the playoffs: You’re going to be able to land the plane smoothly or you’re going to have a crash landing. Period. That’s it. And that’s got to be our attitude.”

Rivers has lost his last three times in Round 2 of the playoffs. The Sixers have fallen the last four occasions they’ve been to this stage and haven’t reached the Eastern Conference Finals since the 2000-01 season. 

Can Curry keep it up? 

Though the Sixers were strong across the board Wednesday in their series-sealing Game 5 victory over the Wizards, Seth Curry was the player who played most above his normal level.

He scored a playoff career-best 30 points on 10-for-17 shooting. We imagine the Sixers will aim to give Curry opportunities to score on Trae Young, assuming Atlanta begins the game with that defensive matchup. Expect to see Curry running Iverson cuts to get open on the wings. The Sixers should put pressure on Young defensively with two-man actions that feature Curry and the Sixers’ stars. 

Twenty-five or 30 points from Curry would obviously be great for the Sixers. At a minimum, though, the Sixers want to make Young work on defense and detract from whatever he’s able to provide on the other end of the court. 

Battle of the benches 

While Rivers said Saturday his bench usage would be dictated by matchups, he insisted he’s open to playing 10 or 11 players. 

“I would love to,” he said. “It’s always nice to be able to use guys, because the more guys you use, the more they’ll be ready if they need to be used — in case of an emergency. But you just don’t know. Atlanta is a different beast. They just have so many skilled players. Not sure how deep we’ll go. But we’ll watch it. And I wouldn’t be scared to do it, let me put it that way.”

Danilo Gallinari, Kevin Huerter and Lou Williams are the Hawks capable of giving Atlanta a scoring pop off the bench. The Sixers have a few players who fit that description, with Tyrese Maxey the one riding the most momentum after a characteristically joyful, energetic Game 5 against Washington in which he posted 13 points and six rebounds. 

More on Sixers-Hawks 

15 thoughts and tidbits on Sixers’ 2nd-round matchup with Hawks 

Rivers gives idea of Sixers’ game plan if Embiid is out

Making a prediction for Sixers-Hawks series 

Beal showed Thybulle where he can improve, and another star is looming