By: Kylan Watson
The Philadelphia 76ers were riding high as they faced the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. They had all the momentum and had a returning Joel Embiid back in the line-up. Unfortunately, they ran into a buzzsaw, and Atlanta used an offensive explosion to steal game 1 128-124.
The Sixers did not have it going in the first quarter. They played very sloppy, and the Hawks took advantage scoring 26-points off 19 turnovers. Those turnovers allowed the Hawks to take full advantage of their speed and hit wide-open three-pointers or an easy dunk. Before Philly could get it together, they were down by 26 in the first quarter. Atlanta was led by Trae Young who had 25 of his 35-points by half-time and was abusing Danny Green who Philly for some odd reason left on an island against him. He hit four three-pointers and scored 15 of his 35 against Green. Philly will need to put some more length on Young. If they want to win game 2 and make him less effective for the rest of this series.
On the first quarter performance, “I thought they hit us in the mouth to start the game,” said 76ers Head Coach Doc Rivers.
They were able to stop him once they implemented the trap and gave the assignment to guard/forward Ben Simmons. Coach Rivers will have to make the adjustment of either putting Ben on him to start or subbing in Matisse Thybulle to start the game on him. It is a huge decision that must be made.
Philly was able to make a run in the second half after deciding they were not going to let Young have his way anymore. They forced the ball out of his hands and made somebody else beat them. That calculus allowed Philly to get back in the game. They were able to cut a 26-point lead to four-points late in the fourth quarter behind center Joel Embiid and some clutch threes from guards Seth Curry and Furkan Korkmaz. Embiid was abusing Clint Capella who had no answers for him. He scored 39-points and had “The Center” rocking as he willed Philly back into this game and gave Atlanta something to think about in game 2.
Atlanta was able to steal this game from Philly after Bogdan Bogdanovic hit a three-pointer and shooshed the crowd. Philly was able to get two crucial turnovers and make it a four-point game, but the Hawks hit some free-throws to ice the game.
The Sixers will look at the tape of this game and see that if they just played better perimeter defense and made Atlanta pay for leaving their shooters open, they could have gotten this game. Philly will need to have better defensive play and will need to hit more than just 10 threes if they want to beat the Hawks in game 2 and send them home in this series.
On what the Sixers need to do in game 2, “We’ve got to start the right away. We’ve got to lock in and be ready,” said Simmons.