Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers stole back home-court advantage from the Atlanta Hawks in convincing fashion by winning Game 3 to the tune of a 127-111 blowout on Friday night. Philadelphia dominated from the get-go and while Atlanta managed to close the gap to end the first half, the Sixers put their foot on the gas pedal in the third quarter and never let go to grab the 2-1 series lead.
The Hawks certainly looked like they were going to be trouble for the no. 1 seeded Sixers after they took the Game 1 victory. Atlanta dominated Game 1 for the most part and managed to just hold on and stave off a late-game Philadelphia rally to win the series opener. Since then, however, it has been all Sixers from Games 2 and 3.
Philly has certainly flipped the switch after getting pummeled for the majority of Game 1, save for their 4th quarter rally, and have dominated the Hawks over the last 100 minutes or so of the series. The main reason for this is the brilliance of their franchise superstar Joel Embiid.
Atlanta has simply not found an answer for The Process so far. The runner-up for this year’s MVP award Embiid definitely looks like he is playing with something to prove. So far, through three games, the 4-time All-Star is averaging 35.3 points on 53.3 percent shooting from the field, to go along with 10.3 rebounds.
Embiid kicked off the series with a 39-point outing. While he wasn’t as assertive in Game 1 compared to their two wins, he was still instrumental in their late-game comeback that came up just short. The Cameroonian followed that up with a dominant 40-point night to propel the Sixers to a 118-102 win in Game 2.
In Game 3, Joel Embiid saw considerably lesser looks at the basket as Atlanta tried to get the ball out of his hands more often than not. He shot just 14 times on Friday after averaging 23 attempts through the first two games in Philly. The Hawks sent more double-teams towards Embiid and despite fewer shots, the 2014 no. 3 overall pick was just as effective by dishing out eight assists. As he proved on Friday, Embiid has grown tremendously in becoming a playmaker by making the right reads whenever he sees multiple bodies towards his way.
In addition, Joel Embiid has also been relentless in attacking the basket, despite playing with a cartilage tear in his right knee. This is evidenced by the number of free throws he has taken this series. In three games, Joel Embiid has gotten to the line 47 times already. Atlanta’s big men, whether it be Clint Capela, John Collins, or Onyeka Okongwu, cannot stop him whenever he bullies his way to the paint and they have no choice but to foul him to prevent an easy bucket or a momentum-swinging throwdown. The bad news for them is that he is making his freebies at an elite rate at 80.9 percent on over 15 attempts per game.
Perhaps the only thing that could stop Joel Embiid right now is himself. Sixers fans certainly hope he remains healthy for them, not just in this series, but throughout the postseason. Despite an injury scare after he rolled his ankle and limped on the way down the floor during the third quarter in Game 3, Joel Embiid appears to be fine moving forward. Hopefully he can stay on the floor as he continues to display his brilliance in these 2021 NBA playoffs.