The second-round playoff series between the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks is now a best-of-three battle.
Atlanta evened the series at 2-2 with a 103-100 victory in Monday's Game 4 at State Farm Arena. Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic, John Collins and Clint Capela led the way for the Hawks, who ensured there will be a Game 6 in Atlanta with the comeback win.
The defense also deserves plenty of credit, as it limited Joel Embiid throughout the second half including on a key possession in the final 10 seconds when he and Ben Simmons both missed chances that could have given their team the lead. Seth Curry also missed a three that could have forced overtime at the buzzer.
Double-doubles from Embiid and Simmons weren't enough for the 76ers, who will face plenty of pressure as the Eastern Conference's top seed with the series still hanging in the balance after blowing an 18-point lead in this one.
Notable Player Stats
- Trae Young, G, ATL: 25 PTS, 18 AST, 4 REB
- Bogdan Bogdanovic, G, ATL: 22 PTS, 5 REB
- Clint Capela, C, ATL: 12 PTS, 13 REB
- John Collins, F, ATL: 14 PTS, 12 REB
- Joel Embiid, C, PHI: 17 PTS, 21 REB, 4 AST
- Tobias Harris, F, PHI: 20 PTS, 5 REB
- Ben Simmons, G, PHI: 11 PTS, 12 REB, 9 AST, 2 BLK
Trae Young and Defense Lead Balanced Effort for Hawks
Young has been one of the breakout stars of the NBA playoffs, and Monday's game was the closest thing he's faced to a must-win after cruising past the New York Knicks in the opening round.
While operating against Simmons' swarming defense is no easy task, he was under the spotlight as his team looked to avoid a 3-1 deficit. It didn't look great from the start, as the guard shot 3-of-12 from the field before intermission and had a large wrap on a shooting shoulder that was already taped when he was on the bench.
The team as a whole also struggled to convert easy opportunities at the rim as it fell behind by double digits in the early going, although Young's facilitating and timely scoring from Bogdanovic kept it within striking distance.
It would have been easy for the Hawks to fold with their star player struggling with his shot and the bench failing to score a single field goal until late in the third quarter as they fell behind by as many as 18 points, but they continued to feed on the crowd's energy and gradually chipped away at the deficit.
Collins electrified that crowd with multiple putback jams, and Young continued to put his teammates in ideal position to score until he finally found the net from deep to cut the lead to two heading into the fourth.
The defense spearheaded the effort for much of the fourth quarter with Capela drawing a key charge on Embiid and the rest of the team helping surround Philadelphia's star and make life particularly difficult for him.
That set the stage for Young to take over during the finishing stretch, and he assisted a Collins three-pointer, made a floater in the lane and connected on four free throws in the final three minutes to ice the win.
76ers Unable to Overcome Embiid's Struggles as They Blow Lead
Winning two straight contests to take the lead in this series wasn't all good news for the 76ers, as they lost Danny Green to a calf injury in Game 3. While he is only a role player, the importance of such absences has been clear with De'Andre Hunter out for the Hawks on the other side.
It also put more pressure on the other players for the visitors who were without one of their sharp-shooters, and they responded right out of the gates.
Philadelphia poured in 62 points in the first half alone to build a commanding 13-point lead. Curry caught fire from deep, Simmons and Embiid had their double-double by halftime, and Tobias Harris was efficient while attacking the lane and hitting from the outside.
With Simmons dishing out assists, Harris dialing in as a scorer and Embiid hitting fadeaway jumpers with impressive touch, it seemed as if Philadelphia would put the game away without much drama.
However, Embiid was never really the same after receiving treatment in the locker room during the first half, per the TNT broadcast. The entire team's offense went missing as he missed every shot he attempted in the second half and appeared to grimace multiple times as he fought through his knee injury.
The visitors saw their lead disappear completely as their star player labored through possessions. To his credit, he continued to rebound, which helped keep it close heading into crunch time.
Still, it was fitting when he missed a potential go-ahead shot at the rim on Philadelphia's penultimate possession. While the 76ers may ultimately win this series, it is difficult to envision them cashing in on championship hopes if Embiid isn't healthy and playing better than he did Monday.
The series shifts back to Philadelphia for Wednesday's Game 5.