The Philadelphia 76ers (53-28) faced the Atlanta Hawks (41-40) simply trying to get to the postseason healthy, as evidenced by the number of guys they had sitting out. With Joel Embiid, James Harden and numerous other key players out, the Sixers stole an overtime win, 136-131.
Let’s break down an insane game between the Sixers and the Hawks.
Sixers player notes:
Jaden Springer: 19 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 8-13 FG shooting
What a week it has been for Springer. After winning the G League Finals MVP award and leading the Delaware Blue Coats to its first league title yesterday, he makes his first NBA start. He looked very impressive on both sides of the ball.
He looked comfortable in the flow of the offense and wasn’t afraid to try to get his own looks, though he clearly has some work to do in order to be a go-to option on offense. His defensive abilities were put to the test against Young and he looked fine, fighting through screens to (try to) stay on his hip. Yes, he fouled out, but the amount of big plays he made overshadowed it. What a performance.
Paul Reed: 10 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 4-6 FG shooting
Reed got the start and got the game started with a typical Bball Paul play: a putback following an offensive board. But he also committed three fouls in his first seven minutes. He stayed solid and had a fine game. I don’t know how much stock Doc Rivers and the coaching staff put into this game but he missed the chance to run even further away with the backup center spot.
Jalen McDaniels: 24 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 8-17 FG shooting
McDaniels looked perfectly comfortable playing in foreign lineups, finding his spots and hitting almost every shot he let fly. He tied his career-high with 18 points in a half. The Sixers need him to be a solid shooter in the postseason and he’s ending the season looking like just that.
Danuel House Jr.: 22 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 6-11 shooting
House entered drive mode in this one, looking to score in the paint and drawing an impressive amount of fouls while shooting 9-10 from the charity stripe.
Shake Milton: 15 points, 4 rebounds, 16 assists, 7-22 shooting
Milton’s shooting was poor but he blew way past his previous career-high in assists, providing a steady presence in the offense.
Hawks player notes:
Trae Young: 27 points, 3 rebounds, 20 assists, 4 steals, 7-14 FG shooting
Young ran circles around the Sixers defense, orchestrating the Hawks offense with gusto and dropping dimes like he had holes in his pockets on his way to a new career-high. He zipped around the court with ease, was automatic from the free-throw line and made a few solid defensive plays that led to points for his side.
Dejounte Murray: 19 points, 1 rebound, 4 assists, 9-16 FG shooting
Shake Milton did not have a very fun time while being guarded mostly by Murray, who looked too pumped up for a game of this caliber. Nonetheless, he created turnovers and was one of the Hawks’ key scorers opposite of Young,
With the Sixers resting their six key players, the starting lineup for this one consisted of Springer, Milton, McDaniels, Georges Niang and Paul Reed — a lineup that had not seen the floor for even a single prior minute of the season. Mac McClung was also made available to play. Meanwhile, the Hawks came into the game needing a win to lock up the eighth seed.
Springer matched up with Young but the Sixers switched on defense, which led to the Hawks targeting Niang in pick-and-rolls. Young dished the ball around against a unit learning how to play together on the fly, leading to five assists in a 12-4 run during the opening five minutes.
The Sixers found success on offense by getting downhill and scoring at the rim. They also made four of their first six attempts from deep while McDaniels scored nine points without missing a shot. Doc Rivers said he’s probably the best cutter on the team last night and he proved him right with a few nice buckets off of cuts to the hoop.
McClung came into the game, making his Sixers debut in what he hopes is the first step of his journey to being an NBA rotation player in the near future. He didn’t do much at first but the Sixers still played well. They couldn’t corral Young but they did a good job of kicking the ball out, driving right away and then getting the ball to someone in a position to score.
Once Young started pushing the pace, their lack of defensive chemistry showed. Montrezl Harrell got the Sixers on the right track after a 21-2 Atlanta run with three putback buckets but, obviously, any run these Sixers went on was going to get a response from Young and the fully healthy Hawks.
At the half, the Sixers trailed 63-53.
Each side traded buckets to start the second half. Springer pulled up for a nice jumper right in front of the nail and slid his feet to stay with Young, though he did end up committing a few fouls against one of the most notorious foul hunters in the NBA. The Sixers stuck with it thanks to Milton’s ability to get to the paint and make plays.
The Sixers cut the deficit to six, putting themselves in position to tie things up with Young on the bench. McClung hit a three to cut it to two and then, after two quick Atlanta buckets, drove right to the paint in the fast break, drawing a foul from Saddiq Bey and hitting free throws to make it a four-point game heading into the final frame.
Elsewhere in the league, the Miami Heat lost to the Washington Wizards, setting up a Sixers-Nets matchup for the first round (and locking the Hawks into the eighth seed). Ben Simmons is out for the season and won’t be playing a part in it. However, Mikal Bridges will. This is certainly a matchup he is looking forward to.
Back in the Sixers and Hawks’ matchup, Springer stepped up to the moment down the stretch. The man of the hour hit a three, notched a steal and assisted House on a dunk to make it a two-point game again. Later, he took it right at Young for the game-tying bucket on a floater and, after Young put Atlanta back ahead, threw down a putback slam to tie it back up. He held Young off long enough to force a shot-clock violation on the Hawks’ final fourth-quarter possession, leading to overtime.
McDaniels put the Sixers ahead to start OT but winced with pain as he grabbed at his midsection. He remained in the game as Milton diced up the defense. Springer made a poor decision to swipe at a driving Young, giving him an and-one to make it a two-point game with 49 seconds left.
After a rookie mistake, Springer pump faked after getting a pass in the paint, showing impressive composure that led to foul shots. He made just one and then fouled out on a drive from Young, who also only took one freebie. Niang iced the game with a step-back triple, bringing his total on the night to 24 points, tying his career-high.
- Yes, this was just one game, but the Hawks have certainly taken a steep fall from grace after upsetting the Sixers in the 2021 playoffs.
The Sixers will close their regular season out with a Sunday afternoon matchup against the Brooklyn Nets.