By Theodore N. Beitchman
The Sixers are the top seed in the East.
They dispatched the Wiz in 5, and waxed the Hawks Tuesday night in game 2 of their East semi series, with game 3 tomorrow night in Hotlanta.
They have the second-best defensive player in the league in Ben Simmons.
And Joel Embiid, who for reasons passing understanding finished second for MVP, even though he was clearly the best player in the league.
Atlanta is a nice team, with one great player, Trae Young, but a bunch of scrubeenies around him. For my money coach Nate McMillan should have been coach of the year for having gotten them this far.
And yet every high-profile national media gasbag throws shade at the Sixers:
Chuck and Shaq.
I hate to say this because it is a cliche:
But when is Philly going to get some respect?
Like almost every other team Philadelphia has played this season, the Hawks have had no answer for Embiid through two games. The 27-year-old has torched Clint Capela, using his combination of bruising physicality and balletic grace to shoot 15-for-27 from the floor against his Atlanta counterpart while also drawing eight shooting fouls on him, according to NBA Advanced Stats’ matchup data.
Capela’s the only true center on the Hawks’ roster. Every other option, from upsold power forwards John Collins and Danilo Gallinari to rookie Onyeka Okongwu, is simply too small to hold up against Embiid.
And none of them can do much with Embiid’s fully weaponized face-up game, replete with an evil array of upfakes, jab steps, pivots, and rip-throughs, all deployed to catch a defender leaning precisely the wrong way at precisely the wrong time to give Joel precisely the look he wants.
The results have been awfully impressive:
79 points on 46 shot attempts and 31 free throws, good for an absurdly efficient .662 true shooting percentage, in 73 total minutes over two games.
Again: Embiid tore his meniscus nine days ago.