The Philadelphia 76ers fought all season to earn the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They are one game away from letting the advantage slip away. The Atlanta Hawks staged an epic comeback in Game 5 to post a 109-106 victory taking a 3-2 series lead.
They can close out the top-seed with a win on Friday in Game 6 of the conference semifinal. The fact that the Hawks have rallied from large deficits to win the last two games is disheartening for Philly and has the Hawks loaded with confidence. Atlanta can advance to the conference final for the first time since 2015, though it isn’t going to be easy.
This NBA playoff game takes place on Friday, June 18, 2021 and will air live on ESPN with tip off at 7:30 p.m. ET from State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
Philadelphia 76ers vs Atlanta Hawks Game 6 Odds
Spread: Philadelphia 76ers -2.5 | Atlanta Hawks +2.5 [BET NOW]
Money Line: Philadelphia 76ers –140 | Atlanta Hawks +120 [BET NOW]
Total: 221.5 [BET NOW]
Season to Date
The Hawks really have nothing to lose and they are playing like it. They weren’t expected to beat the best team in the East and not that long ago it seemed unlikely that they’d even make the playoffs. At the beginning of March the Hawks were six games under .500 and an afterthought in the conference.
They pulled the switch on a coaching change that led to an improbable turnaround. Nate McMillan installed some order and the Hawks rattled off eight consecutive wins to climb the ladder in the conference standings. They won the Southeast Division with a 16-game turnaround from March 1 and dismantled the New York Knicks in the first round.
Atlanta lost both regular season games in Philadelphia by a combined 66 points but pulled off a stunner in Game 1. They were just 1-5 in their previous six games in Philly before the postseason yet the Hawks are on the verge of advancing having won twice on the Sixers’ home floor.
Injuries have been a huge storyline across the NBA this postseason and the Sixers are dealing with a big one of their own. Joel Embiid sustained a knee injury in the Washington series that forced him to miss one contest. Though he’s played through a partially torn meniscus Embiid is basically operating on one leg. He missed a crucial shot late in Game 4 and failed to make a field goal in the second half.
He scored 37 points on Tuesday, but got little help from his mates. Ben Simmons has been horrendous shooting free throws and Tobias Harris scored just four points in Game 5. Asking Embiid to shoulder the load on one good leg might be too much.
They may be down but the Sixers are by no means out. They overcame adversity all season and are faced with just another test. They whacked the Hawks twice at home during the regular season winning games by 22 and 44 points.
So when Philly built a 26-point lead it probably seemed like another easy win. But this is the postseason and things are turned up a notch. Once the avalanche started the Sixers were nearly powerless to stop it. “We got too comfortable. We didn’t play the way we should be playing,” Simmons said.
Embiid scored 39 points on Wednesday and Seth Curry had 36. They were the only Sixers to make a field goal in the second half. Philly will lament their horrible free throw shooting. They missed 15 freebies in Game 5 with Simmons the biggest culprit. He was just 4 of 14 from the stripe and is shooting 33 percent this postseason.
Winning the fourth game of a series is always the most difficult, and the Hawks are facing that challenge. They seem to be up for it, though, with Trae Young leading the way. Young had an outstanding regular season averaging 25.3 points and 9.4 assists and he’s been even better in the playoffs.
Young scored 35 points in the Game 1 win and tallied 39 on Wednesday leading Atlanta to within one win of advancing. He’s flourished in other areas as well. He offset a rough shooting night in Game 4 by dishing out 18 assists and is averaging nearly 11 dimes in the series.
The Hawks are a young team experiencing postseason success for the first time. There’s a chance they are too emotional in Game 5 and must harness that energy in a positive way. However, after overcoming large deficits in each of the last two games they have to feel like they can win the series. And they certainly don’t want to go back to Philly for a do-or-die Game 7.
76ers vs Hawks Game 6 Prediction
Our best bets: Philadelphia 76ers -2.5vand OVER 221.5
Confidence is a wonderful thing and the Hawks have loads of it heading into Game 6. They still haven’t won anything and the Sixers will be more than juiced for the encounter with their season on the brink. They need to give Embiid help, though, and I expect Simmons, Harris and Co. to rise to the occasion on Friday.
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