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The Sixers’ penultimate mini-series begins Wednesday night in Philadelphia.
Here are the essentials for Game 1 against the Hawks, with Game 2 set for Friday night:
When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:15 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app
And here are three storylines to watch:
The tables have turned
When the Sixers faced Atlanta on Jan. 11, they started Dakota Mathias. The team was very shorthanded because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols following Seth Curry’s positive COVID-19 on Jan. 7.
This time around, the Sixers will be the team with substantially more players available. Mike Scott (questionable with left hip soreness) was the only Sixer listed on Tuesday night’s injury report.
For Atlanta, Trae Young (left ankle sprain) De’Andre Hunter (right knee soreness), Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness) and Tony Snell (right ankle sprain) are out. The Hawks also ruled out Kevin Huerter with a left shoulder sprain and Bogdan Bogdanovic with left hamstring soreness.
Hawks head coach Nate McMillan joked pregame that he might have to suit up.
Playing it close to the vest? Not likely
It’s possible this mini-series could be a playoff preview. Atlanta is fifth in the Eastern Conference, sporting the same record as the Knicks and sitting two games ahead of the Heat and Celtics.
Upcoming games in May against the Pacers and Heat fall under the same category for the Sixers. Don’t expect Rivers to be especially cagey.
“I think everyone goes all-out. … You try to win the game,” he said last week before the Sixers’ mini-series in Milwaukee. “For us, every game we’re getting better. We have to. We’re young. This is the first time we’ve all been together, so we don’t have the ability to not play all-out. We have to.”
Among the important internal questions to answer is who will factor into Rivers’ playoff rotation. With the team’s health not currently a major concern, we should, at a minimum, see a good amount of the Sixers’ true second unit.
Getting on the officials’ good side
If Dwight Howard picks up one more technical foul, his 16th, and is suspended for a regular-season game, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. The worst-case scenario would be the Sixers needing to be creative at backup center and ultimately losing a little ground in their chase for the No. 1 seed. (The Sixers trail the first-place Nets by 1.5 games and lead the third-place Bucks by two.)
However, any technical fouls are costly in the postseason. Howard, who said Monday he feels he’s being “targeted” by officials, is well aware of that.
“I feel like I have to be smarter, especially in the playoffs,” he said. “Sometimes they catch the tail end of a play — me moving somebody out of the way or me saying things. So I’ve got to make sure that I keep my eyes on the prize and my mouth shut, unless I’m talking to my teammates, and we should win the games. If there’s any refs listening, I love you. I apologize for whatever it was. Let’s hug, let’s meditate.”
Howard also joked that changing colognes must have helped him have a technical-free night in the Sixers’ win over the Thunder.