Hawks Stun Sixers in Phili, Look to Close Out Series at Home
Hawks Stun Sixers in Phili, Look to Close Out Series at Home – The Atlanta Hawks overcame a 26-point deficit on the road Wednesday night to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers 109-106 and take a 3-2 lead in the series.
Philadelphia had a 20-point lead with less than a minute in the fourth quarter but was outscored 40-19 in the final frame as Trae Young and the Hawks bore down on their opponents, getting their first lead of the game with 1:26 left in regulation.
Lou Williams had been a non-factor for most of the NBA playoffs but came up huge for the ATL, scoring 13 fourth-quarter points and inspiring Atlanta’s late charge.
Trae Young followed Williams’ lead and scored 13 points of his own, preferring to deal all of his damage over the final 4:12 of the game. Young had 39 points and seven assists on the night in a game-high 40 minutes, playing up to his “Ice Trae” nickname.
Joel Embiid led his side in defeat with 36 points and seven rebounds but missed two free throws with 10.9 seconds left after having the opportunity to bring the game within one point— the MVP runner-up also did not score for the final seven minutes and has to accept a majority of the blame for this loss despite his outstanding box score.
Another Philadelphia player that quite literally disappeared down the stretch was Ben Simmons (eight points, nine rebounds, four assists); Doc Rivers defended his young All-Star’s poor free-throw shooting in a loss to the Washington Wizards and said that Simmons is still a key player regardless of his ability to make shots at the charity stripe.
“You wanted me to take Ben Simmons off the floor,” said Rivers. “He’s pretty good, so I’ll pass on that suggestion.”
Fifteen days later and Rivers has contradicted himself, subbing Simmons out of the game in crunch time after he had only made four of his 14 free throw attempts in the game. The Hawks targeted Simmons’ foul shot deficiency and played “hack-a-Ben,” stopping the clock and closing the fourth-quarter gap with every missed free-throw.
Looking at the series as a whole, the Hawks are straight-up punking the Sixers. They have won two of three games on the road, where Phili was 29-7 during the regular season, and are playing as if they are the #1 seed, not their opponents. Young and Atlanta’s other young pieces are maturing in front of America’s eyes behind the guidance of veterans Williams and Danilo Gallinari and Interim Head Coach Nate McMillan, who was appointed two and a half months into the season.
McMillan seems to have struck a chord with Young in particular, who has not only upped his regular-season production to 29.4 PPG and 10.3 APG in the playoffs but has total control on the offensive end of the game, regardless of if his shot is falling or not.
The Hawks’ man at the helm has had his point guard’s back since before the playoffs even started, texting Young “You’re built for this” heading into Game One against the New York Knicks.
Atlanta has all of the momentum heading back to the State Farm Arena with Phili managing injuries to Embiid and Danny Green and dropping home-court advantage, and serious questions will be asked about this Sixer core if they flame out of another postseason disappointingly.
The Embiid-Simmons era has been met with two Eastern Conference Semifinals exits and a first-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics last season: another loss would establish a pattern of failure in the playoffs, especially now with a championship coach on the sideline.
If there is one man in basketball that would be willing to take the plunge and split up Embiid and Simmons, it is Philadelphia’s President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey. The former Houston Rockets’ executive has traded Chris Paul, Clint Capela and Carmelo Anthony in the past two years alone.
That is a conversation for another time, however— the 76ers will have their chance to tie the series at 3-3 and force Game Seven back at Wells Fargo Center while the Hawks will look to close out the East’s top seed when they tip-off in Atlanta on Friday, June 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.