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Playoff Bell Ringer: Joel Embiid plays, but Sixers drop Game 1 to Atlanta, 128-124

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A wild one in the Wells Fargo Center

Atlanta Hakws v Philadelphia 76ers - Game One Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Sixers Bell Ringer playoff standings:

Ben Simmons - 2
Tobias Harris - 1
Joel Embiid - 1
George Hill - 1

Pre-game, everything was coming up Milhouse for the Sixers. Joel Embiid was declared healthy enough to play and would start, De’Andre Hunter was a late-game scratch for Atlanta, and Embiid and Triple H came out for an absolutely legendary Bell Ringer ceremony, complete with a Thrust the Process for the ages.

Then, the game started. And Doc Rivers used Danny Green on Trae Young, which proved to be a big mistake. Young (35 points, 10 assists) was able to beat Green off the dribble with ease, and with any sliver of daylight, Trae was knocking down his shots, or finding open teammates created by the help defense who were happy to knock down theirs as well (20-of-47 from 3 for Atlanta). The Hawks dropped 42 points in the first quarter, a 15-point deficit for the Sixers which would quickly balloon to well over 20 as Doc Rivers went to the all-bench lineup at the start of the second to disastrous results. The Sixers trailed by as many as 26, and were down by more than 15 for most of the game, until...

The last few minutes, when Philadelphia went on a 11-0 run to cut Atlanta’s lead from 14 to three. A full-court press and a more-aggressive trapping scheme looked to have the Hawks frazzled. Bogdan Bogdanovic hit a stone-cold 3 when the Sixers had finally made it a one-possession game with 41 seconds left. Then, a few possessions later, a wild scramble led to Joel Embiid getting called for a clear path foul on John Collins. As the Sixers were down eight in the closing seconds, fans started filing out of the arena. But suddenly, a fluky offensive rebound and a steal had the Sixers right back within two. Unfortunately for Sixers faithful, there was no miraculous finish. Bogdanovic would hit two free throws and the Hawks prevailed, 128-124. Bell Ringer time.

Joel Embiid: 39 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 3 blocks, 4 turnovers

Atlanta Hakws v Philadelphia 76ers - Game One Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

What can you say about the team’s wounded warrior? Apparently, it’s a pain management thing for Joel with his knee, but it was still a surprise to see him announced as a starter about one hour prior to gametime. So for him to go out and drop 39 points, diving all over the floor in the closing minutes, it’s really something to watch. Defensively, it was vital to have Joel back as the last line of defense; he had a couple blocks of Trae Young, or else the Hawks star would have had an even bigger game. Joel made all the right reads out of the double teams, finding Seth Curry for a wide-open 3 and Matisse Thybulle under the basket for an easy two. The big man hit some jumpers, but time and again, he did the bulk of his damage on the interior, absorbing the punishment to get to the foul line for 15 attempts (making 14). Considering the circumstances, it was a truly incredible effort from Embiid, and hopefully, he has a few more in him and that right meniscus.

Ben Simmons: 17 points, 4 rebounds, 10 assists, 4 steals, 1 block, 5 turnovers

Atlanta Hakws v Philadelphia 76ers - Game One Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Ben had some negatives in this game, no question — 3-of-10 from the foul line, some bad turnovers, and a couple potentially unnecessary fouls when first switched onto Trae Young. But there were also long stretches of the game when his energy was helping buoy this team. After one of his turnovers, he made an incredible hustle play to get back and block a lob attempt to John Collins. Simmons made a couple huge plays in the press as part of those frenzied final minutes. It’s not surprising that the Sixers finally clicking in the fourth quarter went hand-in-hand with Ben having five assists in the frame. I would also say he showed the right level of aggressiveness on offense and 7-of-7 from the field is obviously terrific; Simmons wasn’t afraid to go at John Collins and he attacked in transition when the chance presented itself. Hopefully, he cleans up some of those things around the edges and we see more of him on Trae starting in Game 2.

Seth Curry: 21 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 turnovers

2021 NBA Playoffs - Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Curry carried over his strong Game 5 performance against Washington by going 5-of-9 from behind the arc in Game. He hit both of his 3s in the fourth quarter while the Sixers were making their furious comeback. Seth’s stepback 3 from the corner in the face of Kevin Huerter to cut it to seven was as confident of shot-making as we’ve seen from him.

Tobias Harris: 20 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 3 turnovers

Atlanta Hakws v Philadelphia 76ers - Game One Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Tobias had a huge second quarter, scoring 13 points in the frame and doing everything possible to keep the game from unraveling completely. Harris had stretch later where a few shots came up short, but still finished the game 8-of-13 from the field. He had a big steal and finish in the final 30 seconds to cut the deficit to three points for the second time.

Matisse Thybulle: 10 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, 0 turnovers

Atlanta Hakws v Philadelphia 76ers - Game One Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

When finally given the opportunity in the second half, Matisse proved himself to be a viable option defending Trae Young, and I would expect him to play a bigger role in that area moving forward. Thybulle also has to be a non-zero offensively, and he certainly chipped in Sunday afternoon, hitting two 3s and scoring twice off cuts to the basket. In this series, the Sixers are going to need to do a lot as far as covering ground in defensive rotations and keeping the defensive pressure on up top. Thybulle seems perfectly equipped to assist in those areas.

Poll

Who is the Bell Ringer in the Game 1 loss to Atlanta?

This poll is closed

  • 82%
    Joel Embiid
    (1148 votes)
  • 10%
    Ben Simmons
    (152 votes)
  • 2%
    Seth Curry
    (28 votes)
  • 0%
    Tobias Harris
    (7 votes)
  • 4%
    Matisse Thybulle
    (61 votes)
1396 votes total Vote Now