The Hawks host the 76ers on Friday night in a pivotal Game 3 in Atlanta after both teams split the first two games of the series in Philadelphia.
The Hawks won Game 1 128-124 after taking a 26-point lead in the first half. The 76ers made key adjustments to their game plan in Game 2 by keeping Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle on Trae Young as much as possible, and this worked as they held the Hawks’ offense in check in their 118-102 win to even the series. After scoring 35 points on 23 shots in Game 1, Young was held to just 21 points on 16 shots in Game 2, but can the Hawks adjust and free Young in Friday’s Game 3?
Can Embiid Carry the 76ers Again in Game 3?If the 76ers win and cover as short road favorites, Embiid must dominate while the 76ers make more shots and do a better job of limiting Young’s shot creation. Embiid (knee) is questionable to play Friday.
Hawks didn’t double Embiid and *this* happened. pic.twitter.com/hQ4GjS19TR— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) June 9, 2021
Embiid scored a game-high 39 points in Game 1 as the 76ers outscored the Hawks by 13 points in his 38 minutes on the court, but they were outscored by 17 points in the 10 minutes where he was on the bench. He followed up this performance with a game-high 40 points in 35 minutes in the 76ers’ Game 2 win as they outscored the Hawks by 14 points when he was on the court. Feeding Embiid consistently will be key in Game 3 as there isn’t anyone on the Hawks who can guard him one-on-one, and he will continue to have opportunities to score and create for others depending on the number of defenders the Hawks send his way.
The 76ers were dominated when they played five bench players at times in Game 1, and coach Doc Rivers did a better job of limiting those lineups by staggering his starters’ minutes in Game 2 by keeping at least one of his best three players (Embiid, Simmons, or Tobias Harris) on the court at all times. Winning the minutes when Embiid is off the court or at least not losing them by much will be key in Game 3 as the Hawks’ bench will likely be more efficient shooting at home.
Per Shot Quality, the 76ers were expected to outscore the Hawks by seven points in Game 1’s four-point loss. The 76ers followed this by getting higher quality shots than the Hawks again in Game 2 as they were expected to outscore the Hawks by 17 points (119.6 to 102.5) and won the game by 16 points and a nearly identical final score (118 to 102). The 76ers can consistently get quality shots, and it will be key that shooters like Harris, Seth Curry, and Shake Milton take advantage of their open looks. If they can continue getting higher-quality shots in Game 3 by limiting Young’s effectiveness and feeding Embiid, they should win.
The Hawks Must Adjust and Free Ice Trae in Game 3If the Hawks cover or win outright as slight home underdogs, their guards must make shots at a high level while Young is the best player on the court. After being a game-time decision for Game 2, De’Andre Hunter (knee) will miss the rest of the season and undergo meniscus surgery. Cam Reddish (Achilles) also remains out.
Young dominated in the Hawks’ first half scoring deluge on Sunday as he got downhill against the 76ers defense and made great decisions to get his team quality shots after that. Whether the defense gave him a pull-up three, a floater, or a pass to an open roller or shooter, Young made the right decision while his teammates converted on open looks.
The 76ers started with Danny Green defending him in Game 1, and Young dominated this matchup as the Hawks took a commanding first half lead. The 76ers countered by putting Simmons on him in the second half and trapping his pick-and-rolls more frequently. This helped the 76ers rally to get back into the game, but it was too little, too late. The 76ers kept their two best defenders, Simmons and Thybulle, on him as much as possible in Game 2, and this made a huge difference as Young wasn’t as efficient. This also led to fewer three-point attempts for the Hawks’ plethora of shooters - 53% of the Hawks’ shots in Game 1 were threes, but only 32% of their shots in Game 2 were threes.
The Hawks’ adjustments to free Young from Simmons and Thybulle as much as possible will be key in Game 3. If Young can get downhill, the Hawks’ offense is unstoppable, but getting matchups that he can consistently win will be key for Game 3.
With the 76ers trapping and forcing the ball out of Young’s hands as much as possible, other Hawks guards like Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter will need to make shots. Huerter stepped up in Game 2 as he made eight of 10 shots from the field (including three of five threes) as he scored 20 points and was a team-high +4 in his 36 minutes on the court.
After scoring 21 points on 17 shots in Game 1, Bogdanovic had a quieter night in Game 2 as he was inefficient and scored just 14 points on 16 shots. If the 76ers are able to limit Young again in Game 3, both of these key Hawks shooters must play well for the Hawks to win.
- 76ers are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 playoff games as a favorite.
- 76ers are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games overall.
- 76ers are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games as a favorite.
- 76ers are 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 games as a road favorite.
- Hawks are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game.
- Hawks are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
- Hawks are 7-18-1 ATS in their last 26 Conference Semifinals games.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
While the Hawks punched the 76ers in the mouth early in Game 1, the 76ers punched back in the second half after adjusting defensively and making it much harder for the Hawks and Young to get into a rhythm. Simmons and Thybulle’s full-time defense on Young made a difference in Game 2 as Embiid is the best player on the court in a 76ers win. The pressure is on the Hawks to adjust and get Young more frequently into more favorable matchups where he can succeed in Game 3,. Although I think the Hawks should have some success early, the 76ers’ offense will be easier to run through Embiid as the 76ers win Game 3. I’ll ride with the better defense and the best player as the 76ers steal back home-court advantage.
Full-Game Total Pick
After the Hawks struggled to score with Young seeing tougher matchups in Game 2, I expect them to have some counters ready early in Game 3 that should make Game 3 higher scoring than Game 2. The 76ers will continue to get high-quality shots, and the shooting of Harris and Curry may decide whether the total goes over or under. I’ll ride with the over as Game 3 should be a shootout with the Hawks also getting to the line more often as they get a friendlier whistle back home.