Joel Embiid didn’t win the Most Valuable Player Award.
That’s okay. I can live with that.
Ben Simmons didn’t win the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
That’s okay. I can live with that, too.
The Philadelphia 76ers are down 0-2 to the Atlanta Hawks in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.
Thanks to the Sixers’ 118-102 victory on Tuesday, none of us have to live with that – which is fantastic.
When Trae Young was in his bag in Game 1 to the tune of 35 points and 10 assists, it was very easy to fear the worst about this series. The Sixers came all the way back and only lost by four. Did most of us feel better? I sure did. Then, the adjustments were made between Games 1 and 2.
The first of which was deploying Simmons as the primary defender on Young. From the opening tip, that was the matchup, and it worked to perfection, as Young missed his first handful of shots which put the Hawks in an early 10-point-plus hole. Matisse Thybulle served as “Plan B” when Simmons needed a rest or when the Hawks tried to counter with different personnel.
Plan A worked. Plan B worked. There’s no need to ever put Danny Green on Young for the rest of this series unless there’s a serious problem in terms of foul trouble. (It should be noted that even tasked with guarding Young, Simmons only picked up two personal fouls all game.)
Young didn’t have the kind of shooting game that he had in Game 1 and finished with 21 points on six made field goals. The damage done to keep the Hawks hanging around in Game 2 came from Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter who were a combined 8-of-14 from 3 with 41 points. It ultimately didn’t matter because Young and backcourt mate Bogdan Bogdanović shot pretty poorly (12-of-32 from the field), and only Clint Capela finished as a double-digit point scorer in the starting lineup.
The Hawks are obviously going to have to counter. What that will look like won’t be known until we see the game proceed. One thing we know for sure is the Hawks have ZERO counters for Joel Embiid.
After scoring 39 points in Game 1, Embiid followed that up with a career playoff-high 40 in Game 2. John Collins fouled out. Clint Capela fouled out, and Gallinari was flat-out abused when Atlanta went small. If the Hawks are content with letting Embiid “get his”, then, hopefully, the rest of the starting cast will have similar performances tonight that they had in Game 2.
Tobias Harris continued his hot scoring in these playoffs. Ahead of Game 3 tonight, Harris is averaging 23.9 points with a .596 TS%. Harris had 20 in Game 1 and 22 in Game 2. Seth Curry is on a tear of his own, shooting a combined 10-of-15 from 3 in the first two games of this series. Something that HAS to change is the lack of bench production.
The Sixers have been getting slaughtered when they go to all bench or predominantly bench lineups in this series. If it wasn’t for Shake Milton’s 14 points in 14 minutes, Game 2 might have ended a little differently. Milton and Furkan Korkmaz need to shake off the cobwebs and cure what ails them. When the Hawks pull Young and Bogdanović for Huerter, Gallinari, and Lou Williams, they don’t miss much of a beat offensively.
De’Andre Hunter is out for the rest of the season and scheduled to have surgery Tuesday for a torn meniscus. As for the Sixers’ own meniscus situation, Joel Embiid continues to be evaluated daily while he manages the pain in his knee.
It’s going to be a fun time in “The A” tonight, folks. Happy Friday, and go Sixers.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Atlanta Hawks
When: 7:30 pm ET, June 11
Where: State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic