How Game 5 will impact when Celtics could begin Round 2 vs. Philly


The Boston Celtics' sole focus should be on taking care of business Tuesday night at TD Garden.

But with Boston up 3-1 in the first-round series against an overmatched Atlanta Hawks team, Celtics fans can afford to look ahead.

The No. 3 seed Philadelphia 76ers swept the No. 6 Brooklyn Nets in their first-round series, so Philly would be Boston's opponent if the C's advance. When would that series start? That depends on the results of Tuesday's Celtics-Hawks Game 5.

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Here are the two scenarios:

If Celtics beat Hawks in Game 5...

... Game 1 of the Celtics' second-round series vs. the Sixers would be Saturday, April 29 at TD Garden. Game 2 would be Monday, May 1.

If Celtics beat Hawks in Game 6 or Game 7...

... Game 1 of Celtics-Sixers would be Monday, May 1 at TD Garden. Game 2 would be Wednesday, May 3.

So, what's the big deal if the series starts two days later? The answer involves Joel Embiid's right knee.

The Sixers star suffered a knee sprain in Philly's Game 3 win over Brooklyn and didn't play in Game 4. Head coach Doc Rivers said there's a "50 percent (chance), at best" that Embiid will be ready for the start of the second round, noting that the results of Embiid's MRI weren't encouraging.

There's a good chance Rivers is dramatizing Embiid's injury as a bit of gamesmanship, and we wouldn't be shocked if the star big man was on the court for Game 1 of Round 2. But if Round 2 starts Saturday instead of Monday, that at least means Embiid will have less recovery time and either would miss Game 1 or not be at 100 percent.

Philly went 11-5 without Embiid this season, and the trio of James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris stepped up in his absence to win Game 4. Beating the Celtics without Embiid would be a much taller task, however.

The Celtics should be motivated to finish off their series with the Hawks on Tuesday night to save their legs for what should be a far more grueling second-round matchup with Philly. Embiid's uncertain status gives them further motivation to secure a series-clinching victory in Game 5.

NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Game 5 begins Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. ET with "Celtics Pregame Live" ahead of 7:30 p.m. tip-off.

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