Tonight, for the first time since 2001, the Sixers will host a Game 7 in their building. That Allen Iverson-led team actually played two Game 7s at home that postseason. First, the Sixers watched Vince Carter’s shot fall off the mark to advance over the Raptors in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and then AI poured in 44 to secure the victory over Milwaukee and send Philadelphia to a meeting with the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
Knowing the nostalgia surrounding that early-2000s team, those are the type of historic stakes we’re dealing with tonight as the current iteration of the Sixers looks to put away Atlanta. Of course, the Sixers should already be preparing for an Eastern Conference Finals matchup with Milwaukee. Disastrous second-half collapses in Games 4 and 5 prolonged this series longer than it needed to go, and without Tyrese Maxey doing his best Deus Ex Machina impression Friday night, we would probably be looking at Atlanta in 6 and a tumultuous offseason of upheaval in the City of Brotherly Love.
A win tonight, though, and we can put Games 4 and 5 in the vault of “Things We’ll Never Think About Again.” So how do the Sixers get it done tonight at the Wells Fargo Center?
For starters, it would sure help for Seth Curry to stay on his current heater. In this current series against Atlanta, Curry is averaging 21.8 points per game, shooting 61.5 percent from the field, including 59.6 percent from 3. He is the only Sixer in franchise history to hit six 3-pointers in consecutive playoff games. Seth’s brother was the first player in NBA history to do it in three straight postseason games back in 2015. Everyone in the City of Brotherly Love is hoping Seth matches Steph’s feat this evening.
The Sixers will also need a better effort on the offensive end than they received from Joel Embiid in Game 6. It’s hard to criticize Joel too much, who has been MVP-caliber throughout much of the postseason and is currently playing through a torn meniscus. It’s also fair to say the refs gave him a terrible whistle Friday night. I feel confident in saying the entire starting lineup won’t go until the fourth quarter without a free throw attempt. However, Embiid did an awful job taking care of the basketball, and needs to read those dig downs coming from Atlanta defenders and make sharper decisions. Joel admitted post-game Friday that he needs to be better:
#Sixers center Joel Embiid: 'We just got to be tougher than them (in Game 7). ... I'm definitely going to be better. There's no chance I play like I did tonight (again).'— Tom Moore (@TomMoorePhilly) June 19, 2021
The big question for Atlanta surrounds the status of Bogdan Bogdanovic, who sat out the end of Game 6 due to knee soreness. Currently listed as questionable, Bogdanovic is the Hawks’ second-most dangerous threat on the perimeter behind Trae Young. His absence would mean more minutes for some combination of Lou Williams or Solomon Hill. Lou on the court would provide the Sixers with another avenue of attack on the offensive end; the Hawks can’t hide both Williams and Young defensively at the same time. As just a 32.1 percent 3-point shooter this season, Hill would offer someone the Sixers can feel more secure helping off defensively to disrupt Trae’s forays into the paint.
Despite Tyrese Maxey’s 16 points in Game 6, Doc Rivers has indicated he is not going to shake up the starting lineup, so expect a popped Kork from the opening tip once again. We’ll see if the Sixers can pull it together and put away these pesky Hawks for good. Game 7s like tonight might only come around once in a generation. Soak it in and let’s go Sixers!
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Atlanta Hawks
When: 8:00 pm ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: TNT, TNT OT
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic