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Playoff Bell Ringer: Bench-led run in second half powers Sixers to 118-102 win

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Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Two Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Sixers Bell Ringer playoff standings:

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

After playing dreadfully in Game 1, and scoring zero points in the first half of Game 2, the Sixers’ bench unit finally came alive in the second half tonight, sparked by 14 points from 11th man Shake Milton. With Atlanta leading 80-79 with 2:19 remaining in the third quarter, Milton hit a 3 — Philadelphia’s first bench points — less than a minute after entering the game for the first time himself. Milton would hit another 3 at the buzzer of the third quarter to stretch the Sixers’ lead to seven, before the Tobi-plus-bench group extended the lead to 20 across the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. The starters gradually filtered back into the game, with Joel Embiid cementing the win down the stretch to finish with a playoff career-high 40 points.

Overall, the Sixers made the proper adjustments from their Game 1 loss. Doc Rivers started Ben Simmons on Trae Young, and the Hawks star was limited to 21 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Simmons’ size and length gave Young trouble, as did the Sixers’ decision to switch more on the double drag actions that stymied them Sunday. Philadelphia also sought out Trae on the defensive end early in the game to some success. Additionally, Doc made the right adjustment in tweaking Tobias Harris’ rotation minutes so that he would lead the second unit, rather than turn to the disastrous all-bench line-up of Game 1. We’ll see if Atlanta has any counters in Game 3, but for now, enjoy the 118-102 Sixers win. And pick tonight’s Bell Ringer.

Atlanta 80-79 lead. Shake Milton 3, first bench points of the game.

Shake Milton: 14 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 turnovers

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

The roller coaster ride for Shake Milton has been wild. He was an important sixth man for the team during much of the regular season. Then, he started struggling mightily during the postseason, enough that Tyrese Maxey had effectively replaced him in the rotation. But with the rest of the bench in a rut, Doc turned to him in the second half, and Shake may have saved this team’s season. He hit his first four 3-pointers, with his only miss from behind the arc coming later with a 30-foot contested heat check to end all heat checks. Milton also found Dwight Howard with a lob to awaken the bench big, and sank a mid-range jumper. His electric play seemed to shock the whole second unit back to life. Doc Rivers said after the Washington series that Shake would still win a couple games for this team down the road. He’s looking pretty smart.

Joel Embiid: 40 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 3 turnovers

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Two Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

While Shake’s effort was incredible for its improbability, Joel’s production isn’t far behind in light of the fact that he’s doing it all on a torn meniscus. He one-upped his playoff career-high 39 points in Game 1, dropping the first 40-point playoff game for the Sixers since Allen Iverson in 2003 and the first 40-point, 10-rebound game since Billy Cunningham in 1970. He is bullying Clint Capela at every opportunity; after Capela scored on a lob in the first half, there was zero question Joel would go right back at him to back down the Hawks center for a bucket. Smaller options didn’t work either for Atlanta, as John Collins kept reaching in before eventually fouling out, and Danilo Gallinari, well, I’ll let Rob Perez describe it:

Defensively, Embiid was excellent in the team’s more aggressive scheme to slow down Trae Young, coming up hard and recovering more often than not to break up the Hawks’ pick-and-roll game. On one play, Embiid switched onto Young, guarding him out to the 3-point line, with Trae looking so harried that he threw a terrible pass for a turnover. It’s difficult to imagine Joel doing more for this team on either end of the floor, and that he’s doing it while managing a painful injury makes him worthy of every MVP chant from this crowd.

Tobias Harris: 22 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 2 turnovers

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Two Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Sixers jumped out to a huge lead in this game, thanks to 16 points in the opening quarter from Tobias Harris. Tobi got out in transition for a couple buckets, and was able to create space for himself in the half court against Solomon Hill. When finding himself checked by a smaller guard like Bogdan Bogdanovic or Kevin Huerter, it was too the weight room and a short jumper over his defender for two. Harris put forth a strong effort on the defensive end himself, a key part of the Sixers’ strategy to switch those double drags and keep Trae Young out of the paint; Tobi joked post-game that Doc Rivers wouldn’t have trusted him with that responsibility in his Los Angeles days. In the fourth quarter, Tobias’ huge block of Danilo Gallinari kept the momentum going while the Sixers were making their game-changing charge.

Seth Curry: 21 points, 2 assists, 0 turnovers

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Two Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

First things first, Curry had a tough game defensively. Atlanta was hunting him out with Kevin Huerter, and then when Doc switched Danny Green onto Huerter, Bogdan Bogdanovic started getting hot. But the Sixers need Curry’s shooting in a big way, and the guard hit his first five 3-pointers before finally missing the mark on his sixth attempt. A couple of those triples came in transition, with Seth doing a nice job getting downcourt and locating the open space before the defense was set. On plays where multiple guys are concerned with Joel in the painted area, having Curry out there to make them pay keeps the offense humming.

Ben Simmons: 4 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers

Trae Young killed the Sixers in Game 1, but didn’t in Game 2. While defensive scheme adjustments certainly played a part, a large portion of the credit has to go to Ben Simmons, who was tapped for the assignment from the opening tip tonight. I don’t want to hear about “he only scored four points.” Ben’s job tonight was to make sure Trae didn’t repeat his Sunday performance, and Ben did his job.

Poll

Who is the Bell Ringer in the Game 2 win over Atlanta?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Shake Milton
    (1019 votes)
  • 47%
    Joel Embiid
    (1072 votes)
  • 0%
    Tobias Harris
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    Seth Curry
    (9 votes)
  • 5%
    Ben Simmons
    (130 votes)
2238 votes total Vote Now