It was another dominant night for the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid as he led his team over the Atlanta Hawks in a Game 2 victory to tie the Eastern Conference semifinal series. But heading to Atlanta, the NBA betting lines have this one almost even with a slight lean on Philadelphia.
The Sixers are minimal sports betting favorites at -1½ points. It is hardly an upset, but the Hawks should be able to regain their efficient shooting form, which they usually start with, and go all the way this Friday.
76ers: Stick to Plan
The Sixers opened Game 2 with a bang as forward Tobias Harris scored 16 of his 22 points in the first quarter and Philadelphia jumped to a 13-point lead. However, the Hawks fought back and still shot over 50 percent during the half.
Ultimately, Philadelphia took over the second half, much like in the series opener. Embiid scored 24 of his 40 points while guard Shake Milton came off the bench to add 14. While guard Ben Simmons only had four points, he was instrumental in holding Hawks leading scorer Trae Young to just 6-of-16 shooting and four turnovers.
Philadelphia has found the recipe to beat Atlanta. The Sixers wear them out and take over in the second half. Simmons and the perimeter defense will keep tabs on Young and Atlanta’s crew of shooters while Embiid dominates down low. But for Philadelphia to keep succeeding, Milton or anyone else from the bench will need to continue contributing.
Hawks: Bounce Back
Young was due for a subpar performance at one point. Even with his less-than-ideal stats, the third-year guard is still averaging 29.9 points on 44 percent shooting. He hit just 1-of-7 from deep on Tuesday, his worst mark of the playoffs.
But it’s not all on Young. The Hawks’ supporting crew and their bench players, who were the difference makers in Game 1, were outplayed by the Sixers’ role players in the second half. Forward Danilo Gallinari and guard Kevin Huerter combined for just 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting. They were -9 and -12 respectively. John Collins was -11.
The Hawks can expect their superstar to put up a double-double and control the offense for most of the night. They can expect him to get his shots the same way they can expect Embiid to crush the post. But what is unexpected, and will swing this game, is the production of the secondary cast.
Pick: D Up
The Philadelphia 76ers will do everything in their power to contain Young, who remains the heartbeat of the Hawks’ offense. When Young isn’t having a dominant game, the Hawks are struggling. But they can still rely on another thing: their defense.
Young was “okay” in the Hawks’ two home games against the New York Knicks and yet they won both games decisively. His numbers didn’t change much in the regular season, either, although the Hawks were 25-11 at home compared to just 16-20 on the road.
Atlanta has a 109.4 defensive rating at home versus 114.8 on the road. The team allowed Philadelphia to shoot 52.9 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from three the last game. With the raucous Atlanta fans on their side, the Hawks will turn Hotlanta up and burn out the Sixers.
Pick: Atlanta Hawks +1½
Bonus Pick: Cooked Offense
Despite being mostly known for Young’s scoring prowess and hot shooting, Atlanta’s strength is its defense. The team locks down opponents at home. Twenty-one of its 38 home games have gone under. Conversely, the Sixers have also been less explosive on the road with 23 of their 38 road games going under.
Bank on the Hawks to turn to buckle down. They’ll keep the Sixers’ shooters at bay as the scoring goes lower than the last two games.