The Eastern Conference's top seed is on the brink of elimination in stunning fashion.
The Atlanta Hawks seized a 3-2 lead in their back-and-forth conference semifinal against the Philadelphia 76ers with a dramatic 109-106 victory in Wednesday's Game 5 at Wells Fargo Center. Trae Young led the way for the visitors, who will advance to the East Finals for the first time since the 2014-15 season with one more win after overcoming a 26-point deficit.
The visitors outscored Philadelphia by 21 points in the fourth quarter alone with Young putting his team on his back in an incredible showing.
Impressive outings from Joel Embiid and Seth Curry weren't enough for the 76ers, who will have to bounce back and win two games in a row in this best-of-seven series to prevail.
Notable Player Stats
- Trae Young, G, ATL: 39 PTS, 7 AST, 3 STL, 17-of-19 FT
- John Collins, F, ATL: 19 PTS, 11 REB, 2 BLK
- Danilo Gallinari, F, ATL: 16 PTS, 8 REB
- Lou Williams, G, ATL: 15 PTS, 3 AST, 2 REB, 2 STL
- Seth Curry, G, PHI: 36 PTS, 7 REB, 2 STL, 7-of-12 3PT
- Joel Embiid, C, PHI: 37 PTS, 13 REB, 5 AST, 4 BLK, 2 STL
Trae Young's Superstardom Grows as Hawks Shock 76ers
Philadelphia is the No. 1 seed, but Atlanta already proved it can hang with the powerhouse by splitting the first four games and overcoming a double-digit lead in its last victory with Young taking over in crunch time.
It didn't look that way out of the gates on Wednesday.
The Hawks were lost on the defensive side with no answer for Embiid in the first quarter and then went ice cold on the offensive end on the way to 16 points in the second quarter. The end result was a daunting 22-point halftime deficit and a team that resorted to the desperate measure of intentionally hacking Simmons before intermission.
Although John Collins impressed on the inside, a big part of the problem was the lack of secondary scoring for Young from the wing players. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter each struggled with foul trouble and combined to shoot an ugly 0-of-8 from three-point range.
The only chance the Hawks had was someone else filling the void, and the bench unit did just that in the second half.
Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari and even Onyeka Okongwu provided a much-needed spark off the bench as the visitors gradually chipped away at the 26-point deficit. Even cracking the door open a bit was enough for Young, who burst through it in the fourth quarter with a legendary performance.
He scored 13 points in the final five minutes with a mix of floaters, pull-up jumpers and cold-blooded free throws. Philadelphia had no counter as the star guard silenced its crowd just like he did to Madison Square Garden in the first round.
Young is doing this at just 22 years old in his first ever playoffs. No moment has been too big for him, and he is now one win away from eliminating one of the best teams in the NBA and causing upheaval to the championship picture. And if he continues to play like this in crunch time, he will do just that.
76ers Melt Down in Dramatic Fashion
The biggest storyline coming into Wednesday's contest from Philadelphia's perspective was the status of Embiid.
After all, the star big man is playing through a knee injury and went 0-of-12 from the field in the second half of his team's Game 4 loss. The 76ers will fall well short of their championship goals if he continues to play like that, so they wasted little time establishing him on the blocks.
Embiid was dominant in the early going, making his first eight shots from the field as the home team jumped out to a commanding lead. He was fully engaged and even picked up a technical foul for jawing at Clint Capela following a monster Ben Simmons dunk.
Throw in Curry catching fire from deep and even working his way through the defense at times, and the 76ers were in full control well into the third quarter.
And then everything came crashing down.
Tobias Harris was invisible throughout the game and finished 2-of-11 from the field. The bench was a mess, which forced head coach Doc Rivers to bring back Embiid and Curry likely earlier than he planned as the lead shrunk to single digits.
Ben Simmons also missed 10 free throws, which is a major reason Atlanta intentionally fouled him multiple times. The defense that was also dialed in during the early going went missing as Young found openings throughout the fourth quarter, and Embiid even missed two clutch free throws at the end.
What's more, Embiid and Curry were the only 76ers to even make a field goal in the second half. That spelled disaster for the 76ers and a collapse they won't soon forget.
The series returns to Atlanta for Friday's Game 6.