There’d be no late-game collapse this time.
The Sixers built a lead as large as 28 and were able to beat the Hawks, 122-94, in a postseason rematch at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night. The win brings the Sixers to 4-2 on the young season.
Excellent team defense on Trae Young and a strong outing from the Sixers’ improved second unit led the team to a win. Young had just 13 points on 5 of 16 shooting. After turning the ball over 20 times against the Pistons Thursday, the Sixers took much better care of the basketball (11 turnovers).
Ben Simmons, who was at shootaround this morning, remains out for personal reasons.
Here are a few takeaways from the victory.
- How the Sixers defended Young without Simmons was as a big storyline as any. To start the game, Tyrese Maxey drew the assignment. If you’ll recall, Maxey actually did a decent job against Young last postseason, most notably in Game 6. Maxey got off to a strong Saturday, breaking up a DHO on the Hawks’ second possession and getting a dunk on the other end.
Young’s frustration over plays he believed were fouls boiled over after he fouled Seth Curry on a three-point attempt and then received a technical. Shake Milton also held up well against Young. The star guard was just 3 of 9 in the first half, but did record six assists.
- Joel Embiid’s defense continues to be incredible to start the season, even if his offense has been a little shaky at times (1 of 7 to start). The Hawks picked on Curry with De’Andre Hunter to open the game. It looked like it could be a long night for Curry and the Sixers, but Embiid began shading towards Hunter. Hunter then settled for a couple midrange jumpers and Atlanta went away from the strategy. Embiid was also excellent in pick-and-roll coverage against Young and Clint Capela.
- A big part of the reason the Hawks beat the Sixers in the postseason was the play of each team’s respective bench. The addition of Georges Niang appears to be helping bridge that gap. Danilo Gallinari scorched the Sixers in the playoffs, but had a much tougher time in this one (4 points, 2 of 6). He even picked up a technical for a bush-league trip on Matisse Thybulle after a steal.
- Speaking of Thybulle, he wreaked havoc against the Hawks. He sent this Cam Reddish corner three to Norristown.
You just felt the game change a bit with Thybulle in it. He got Reddish on a midrange jumper a couple possessions later.
Milton continued his strong play in just his second game back. While Furkan Korkmaz had his moments running the point, the second unit feels much more organized with Milton at the one.
- The bench stretched the lead to as much 15. A timely Tobias Harris three seemed to stem the tide of a run by the Hawks’ starters. Harris hasn’t shot the three ball particularly well this season, but he was firing away, a very welcome sign. He attempted five shots from deep in the first half alone, making two. As a team the Sixers took 20 shots from beyond the arc before halftime.
- Embiid (15 points), who made his last three shots, and Harris (14 points) paced the Sixers. They took a 14-point lead into the half — which you could argue meant the Hawks had ‘em right where they want ‘em! (Sorry.)
- Atlanta resumed picking on Curry in the third. Curry picked up two quick fouls, but Hunter really didn’t hurt the Sixers. Meanwhile, Curry got going on the other end, scoring 12 points in the period. It helps when the Hawks leave him wide open. Bold strategy, Cotton!
- Maxey continued to do a good job on Young — he even had a nice rearview block on him. (Thybulle should probably get a patent on that.) The Sixers’ team defense was excellent, though Atlanta held an enormous rebounding advantage. Maxey’s pace seemed to take advantage of that strong defense and led to a couple easy looks on the other end.
- Milton continues to provide an offensive spark. He scored on a nice drive through traffic and hit a three with under a minute left in the third. He had 11 points, two assists and zero turnovers. The Sixers took a 20-point lead into the fourth.
- The Hawks really tried to put the Sixers at a disadvantage on defense much like they did last postseason, but the second unit held up. Led largely by Thybulle (four steals, three blocks) and Milton, the reserves came up huge.
- Even with the Sixers up big, Doc Rivers took no chances with all the starters re-entering the game late in the fourth. Can you blame him though? Maxey led the charge to close the game with a couple beautiful drives. He finished with 16 points.
- Harris was the Sixers’ star of the game. He led the team in points (22), rebounds (10) and assists (four). Embiid had 19 points while Curry finished with 16.