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Hobbled Embiid guts out fourth quarter, leads Sixers to tight win vs. Hawks

Joel Embiid fell awkwardly in the fourth quarter and appeared hobbled the rest of the game, but the reigning MVP gutted it out in a close win over the Hawks.

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Well, a win is a win.

The Sixers took down a Trae Young-less Atlanta Hawks squad 125-114 in a game that was closer than the final score would indicate.

Despite tweaking his knee in the fourth, Joel Embiid led the way with 38 points, shooting 12-of-24 from the field and adding 14 rebounds, three assists and four blocks.

Tyrese Maxey went for 30 points including a three-ball that put the game away, and De’Anthony Melton had 15 points on a nice night inside.

Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.

First Quarter

  • Just like Wednesday night, it was all Embiid early. Though this time, they were facing a team with NBA-caliber defenders on it. While putting up 17 in the first, he was considerably more careful with the ball than he was early on Wednesday. He had two assists to no turnovers in the first.
  • Before the game, Nick Nurse said an area he’d like to see the team improve on defensively was sending opponents to the free throw line. Twice they fouled a shooter behind the three-point line, giving them three shots at the line. That needs work, but Philly’s defense otherwise looked much better to start this one. They looked much more focused on their assignments, and held the Hawks under 40% from the field in the quarter.
  • Of course, everything is easier when shots from outside are falling. Philly shot 5-of-10 from deep in the first, a stark contrast from their 0-of-13 start in Washington. In fact, the only concern in the first was that Marcus Morris Sr. is still playing ahead of Robert Covington. The Sixers held a 12-point lead after one.

Second Quarter

  • Some shaky minutes to start the second without Embiid on the floor. Paul Reed has played well, especially in the shorthanded games, but he didn’t have a feel for things tonight. He had three turnovers trying to turn post touches inside out and got beat a couple times in pick-and-rolls.
  • It was a typical first half from Maxey in that he came alive in the second quarter after scoring just one point in the first — though the reads and passes he was making was what stood out more. He went into the break with five assists and no turnovers.
  • The Hawks absolutely crushed Philly on the glass in this quarter, which is what allowed them to erase the lead. They grabbed eight offensive rebounds and took 12 more shots. That persistent offense not only saw the Sixers’ lead vanish, but the Hawks went up by six going into the half.

Third Quarter

  • It was a familiar start to the second half, as Philly’s effort to come back was nearly entirely fueled by Embiid. He scored 10 of the team’s first 14 points of the quarter while holding down the fort on defense.
  • It’ll likely never be his strong suit, but De’Anthony Melton has showed some progress finishing at the rim over the past couple of games. He had a couple tough finishes in transition during a mini-run. He’s never going to loom like Kyrie Irving spinning around defenders but he has gotten a lot better at preparing for and embracing contact.
  • The Sixers’ defense wasn’t miles better in the third, but at least they were finishing possessions. They were still outshot in the quarter, but they grabbed enough rebounds to where it wasn’t an absurd difference. Thanks to a put-back from Kelly Oubre Jr., the Sixers clung to a one-point lead heading into the fourth.

Fourth Quarter

  • Nick Nurse didn’t like what he saw from Reed in the first half, as he went to Mo Bamba to start the quarter instead. Despite the extra height, he didn’t have anymore luck keeping Onyeka Okongwu off the glass than the rest of the team did. Atlanta grabbed five more offensive rebounds, which helped them stay in front for much of the fourth.
  • Embiid seemed to slip and hyperextend his left knee on a drive halfway through the quarter. He didn’t come out of the game but it did seem to bother him quite a bit. How serious it is and how it affects him going forward will certainly be worth monitoring.
  • It looked like one of those nights where Embiid would have to will them across the finish line. They weren’t generating anything if it didn’t start with him. The Hawks forced someone else to beat them with a minute and a half left by doubling Embiid and not allowing him to get a touch. Philly finally swung it around and Maxey buried the three which ended up being the dagger.
  • The Sixers will stay at home for their next matchup as they’ll once again take on the Washington Wizards Monday at 7 p.m.

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