Sixers

3 storylines to watch for Sixers' 1st home Game 7 in 20 years

Sixers

The Sixers on Sunday will play their first home Game 7 since beating the Bucks on June 3, 2001 to reach the NBA Finals. Allen Iverson scored 44 points and Dikembe Mutombo had 23 points, 19 rebounds and seven rebounds in that game. 

If the Sixers top the Hawks, they’ll again play Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference finals, with Game 1 on Wednesday night. The Bucks secured their spot with a Game 7 overtime win Saturday over the Nets. 

Here were the Hawks and Sixers’ full reports as of Saturday night: 

Hawks

  • Cam Reddish — Out (Right Achilles soreness)
  • De’Andre Hunter — Out (Right meniscus surgery)
  • Brandon Goodwin — Out (Respiratory condition)
  • Trae Young — Probable (Right shoulder soreness) 
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic — Questionable (Right knee soreness) 

Sixers

  • Danny Green — Out (Right calf strain)
  • Joel Embiid — Questionable (Small right lateral meniscus tear)

Embiid has been listed as questionable for every game this series. Bogdanovic’s injury forced him to miss the final 9:55 of Atlanta’s Game 6 loss.

The game is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. ET on TNT. NBCSP will air Sixers Pregame Live beginning at 7 p.m., as well as Sixers Postgame Live. 

Here are three Game 7 storylines to watch: 

How much will Sixers lean on their stars? 

With 53 minutes on his legs and 48 points to his name, Kevin Durant came up short on a potential go-ahead three-pointer in overtime Saturday night. 

In a must-win game Friday, Embiid, Tobias Harris and Seth Curry all played in the 38-39 minute range for the Sixers. Will head coach Doc Rivers rely on his best players more than usual for Game 7?

“I actually reached out to each one of them,” Rivers said Saturday. “I’ve done it three or four times in a row, and I keep on purpose pushing their number, what they think, up. I really wanted Tobias to go 40. That’s what I had him scheduled for. I don’t think we got him there — I think it was 38, 39. … But visually, you could see we were right at that limit. Everybody has a number where all of a sudden, they’re not as productive as you want them to be.

 

“And a lot of guys, what we’ve learned is once they get over that, it’s hard for them to come back. And so you have to be very careful with that during a game. I thought we kept a really close eye on it, and I thought we got away with it — probably right at the max. But if we can extend, we will.”

Curry’s 39:04 of playing time Friday was his high for the season. Harris nearly reached 44 minutes in the Sixers’ March 17 overtime loss to the Bucks, while Embiid played 40:28 in a February OT defeat to the Cavs.

Embiid went 45 minutes in the Sixers’ Game 7 loss to the Raptors two years ago. The Sixers were outscored by nine points in Greg Monroe’s 1:41, the kind of extreme figures Rivers will hope to avoid should Dwight Howard continue to play.

Rivers used 10 players in Game 6. He’s liked the Sixers’ depth throughout his first season in Philadelphia, but Sunday may very well be the time to trim a player or two from the rotation. 

Who handles the ball? 

We won’t have confirmation until 30 minutes or so before tip-off, but Rivers indicated Saturday he does not have a starting lineup change in store.

“I like exactly how we started,” he said. “We started (Furkan) Korkmaz, by the way, last night — and won. His numbers have been pretty good overall. I don’t overreact to each single game. If I did, I would’ve started Shake (Milton) after Game (2), because he had a great game. So that’s not what we do. We stay solid, we stay disciplined and we run our stuff.”

Korkmaz has 24 points and 12 rebounds in three games since coming into the starting five for Green. He’s made 9 of 25 field goals (36 percent) and 4 of 15 three-point attempts (26.7 percent).

According to Rivers, the Sixers wanted to surround Tyrese Maxey with as much shooting as possible in Game 6, which explains why Korkmaz played 23 minutes and Matisse Thybulle only 11. Maxey gave the Sixers a welcome jolt of energy and scoring Friday, making his first four field goals and playing dogged defense on Trae Young.

Seven of Maxey’s 30 minutes were with Ben Simmons. How much will Maxey handle the ball Sunday in lineups alongside Simmons? And, assuming Simmons is mainly employed off the ball in half-court offense, can he make a positive impact on post-ups, as a screener and roller, and as an offensive rebounder? 

 

It doesn’t have to be pretty 

Game 7s aren’t conducive to free-flowing, beautiful basketball. Both teams should be desperate to win and unwilling to concede any easy points.

Embiid was not a fan of the Game 6 officiating, asking for Game 7 to be “called both ways.” While the Sixers can’t control what the officials deem a foul, it’s on them to adjust to however the game is being called and make the most of it. For instance, if the game is being officiated tighter than usual, perhaps Embiid can get Clint Capela in foul trouble and face rookie Onyeka Okongwu early.

Maintaining composure will be important, too. It’s unlikely everything will break the Sixers’ way, and that’s fine as long as they’re not distracted from the task at hand. 

Home-court advantage might have an impact in some of these intangible areas, although the Sixers have lost twice at Wells Fargo Center this series. They had a 15-4 home “clutch” record during the regular season.