The Philadelphia 76ers feel as if they let an easy win slip away in Game 4. They were up by 18 points against the Atlanta Hawks at one point, then it all came crashing down faster and harder than Joel Embiid’s injured knee hitting the basketball court.
That can’t and won’t happen again, according to Dwight Howard. He knows they have to finish off their best-of-seven series sooner rather than later, preferably on their home court with back-to-back wins on Wednesday and Friday.
The Sixers veteran called the Hawks a “scary team” and the only way to beat them is to “stay on their neck” and dominate. The Eastern Conference semifinals are about to take an interesting turn.
“I’m sorry, I love those guys in Atlanta, they’re my friends away from basketball but right now they are trying to end my season and take away my trophy. And our trophy,” Howard told reporters on Wednesday. “For our team, we have to put our foot on their neck and don’t let off. I don’t mean to sound vicious or rude but that’s the only way it’s going to take to win. You put your foot on their neck, press the gas and you keep going forward … in the most respectful way.”
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Howard Talks About Battling Meniscus Tear
Joel Embiid has been battling a small tear in his meniscus in the second round of the playoffs. It didn’t appear to bother him too much in the first three games, but the big man looked very uncomfortable in Game 4. Embiid even had to leave the court and get treatment in the locker room. After the game, the 7-footer claimed he couldn’t jump.
Howard knows the feeling and how hard it is to play on a bad knee. The future Hall of Famer played on a torn MCL and meniscus in the 2015 playoffs as a member of the Houston Rockets. He averaged 14.4 points and 14.4 rebounds per game in the Western Conference Finals that year but the Rockets lost in five games.
“I understand the feeling and what he’s doing,” Howard said. “It’s really hard to want to play and not think about what you’re dealing with. But that’s when you gotta rely on your teammates, rely on the energy from the crowd, the bench, to keep you going. Understand that we’re here for you and I think he understands that.”
The constant up and down on a torn meniscus can really affect your game, especially for a guy like Embiid who measures 7-foot and 280 pounds.
“It really bothers you,” Howard said. “For him, being 285 [pounds], 7-foot-9, and moving the way he’s moving … you know, sometimes that causes a lot of extra pain in that knee area.”
1983, Ain’t No Stopping Us Now
The last time the Sixers hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy was 1983 when the famed “Fo, Fo, Fo” team swept the Los Angeles Lakers for the title. Hall of Famers Moses Malone, Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks only lost one playoff game during that run.
Howard referenced them when talking about this year’s Sixers team. They used the classic Philly soul track “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” as their theme song during that championship run. Maybe the tune should be resurrected and put on repeat tonight at the Wells Fargo Center in Game 5. It can’t hurt.
“In order for us to win the championship, we all have to be one,” Howard said. “The fans, the organization, the city, everyone. The players, the coaches, it’s all about us being one, we can only move as one. That’s the way we’re going to win the championship.
“Back in 1983, the last time the Sixers won they had a song ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now’ and there ain’t no stopping us. So it’s us, it’s going to take all of us to win. I love being here, the fans are very passionate, I’m very passionate. I can have fun and play but once that ball goes up you know it’s business.”