The Philadelphia 76ers have advanced to the second round of the NBA Playoffs for the third time in four seasons. After taking out the Washington Wizards in five games on Wednesday, the Sixers watched as the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks battled it out for a Game 5 of their own.
With a Hawks victory on Wednesday, the second-round matchup was set. The first-seeded Sixers will face the fifth-seeded Hawks. Typically, a first seed would unquestionably be favored over a fifth seed for a playoff series, but spectators and analysts have their reserves about Philly this time around.
NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal is among those who are skeptical about the Sixers' ability to win a seven-game series against the Hawks without Joel Embiid on the floor. As the big man was diagnosed with a small meniscus tear earlier in the week, his status moving forward is unknown at the moment.
Therefore, Shaq is positive the Sixers wouldn't win a series if Embiid is out.
"Without Joel Embiid, in my opinion, that's a pick em' series," said former NBA great Charles Barkley. "No, it's not," Shaq responded quickly. "It's Hawks in five. Write it down. Without Joel Embiid for the whole series. . . Hawks in five."
Without Embiid, the Sixers are certainly a weaker team. That shouldn't come as a surprise since any team that loses an MVP finalist would certainly see more struggles while missing their best player on the court.
But the 76ers can win games without the big man. Sure, the Hawks series looks a lot tougher when the best player between both rosters is out for Philly, but the 76ers have tons of talent and playoff experience on board. They can survive without Embiid, and they might not have to do it all without him anyway, depending on how his recovery goes over the next few days.