The Atlanta Hawks are going to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Atlanta defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 103-96 in Sunday's decisive Game 7 of their second-round series at Wells Fargo Center. Kevin Huerter led the way while Trae Young struggled with his shot for the victors, who advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2015 and will face the Milwaukee Bucks.
Solid showings from Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris weren't enough for the 76ers, who failed to live up to postseason expectations as the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed.
Notable Player Stats
- Kevin Huerter, G, ATL: 27 PTS, 7 REB, 3 AST
- Trae Young, G, ATL: 21 PTS, 10 AST, 5-of-23 FG
- John Collins, F, ATL: 14 PTS, 16 REB
- Joel Embiid, C, PHI: 31 PTS, 11 REB, 3 AST, 8 TO
- Tobias Harris, F, PHI: 24 PTS, 14 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL
Supporting Cast Carries Hawks to Conference Finals
Sunday was another opportunity for Young to further step into the NBA spotlight.
The third-year playmaker already eliminated the New York Knicks, helped his team overcome a 26-point deficit in Game 5 against the 76ers and has continued to bolster his status as one of the league's brightest young stars during a dominant playoffs. Sunday was his first Game 7 and provided a chance to eliminate the Eastern Conference's top seed.
He did anything but seize the moment in the early going.
Young shot an ugly 1-of-12 from the field in the first half while Philadelphia swarmed him every time he had the ball in the half court. To his credit, he still facilitated as John Collins and Huerter picked up the slack and led the visitors to a halftime lead even with the point guard struggling.
It was more of the same in the third quarter for Young, who simply couldn't get things going with his shot. Fortunately for the Hawks, Huerter and Danilo Gallinari carried the scoring for stretches, and Young at least mixed in some lobs to Clint Capela to give them the lead heading into the final quarter of the series.
Still, Atlanta was likely only going to win if Young figured it out in crunch time. The pressure fell on his shoulders even more when the team went cold to start the fourth quarter and immediately lost the lead, but he responded with a floater to take the lead and a long three to push the lead to six.
Fittingly, it was Huerter and Gallinari who made the biggest plays, though, as the former hit three free throws in the final minute and the latter knocked the ball loose from Embiid for a critical steal and dunk as Atlanta put the finishing touches on the victory.
76ers Lose in Second Round Again
The biggest question coming into Sunday's game was whether the third time would be the charm for the Embiid and Ben Simmons 76ers.
This was the third time the duo reached the second round of the playoffs, and they came up short in each of the first two tries. They lost to the Boston Celtics in 2018 and then had their hearts ripped out by Kawhi Leonard's Game 7 buzzer-beater when the Toronto Raptors won the title in 2019.
Embiid seemed to have a sense of the moment and started out quickly by overpowering Hawks defenders on the block and getting to the free-throw line. Simmons also dished out eight assists by halftime even though he wasn't looking for his own shot, and Seth Curry remained locked in with his shooting stroke.
Even with all that, Philadelphia trailed at the half with Harris struggling from the field and Embiid dealing with turnover issues even as he led the offensive attack.
The 76ers made it a priority to get Harris going early in the third quarter, and Curry and Embiid continued to play well to keep them within striking distance. Still, there was plenty of concern from the home crowd's perspective heading into the final 12 minutes with a deficit and another second-round exit looming.
Embiid shifted into takeover mode early in the fourth quarter and gave the 76ers the lead. Still, every possession boiled down to Embiid or bust for a stretch, as Simmons, in particular, shied away from shots to the point Atlanta didn't even guard him outside of the paint.
It didn't help that Embiid had eight turnovers, including the big one on the Gallinari strip. Simmons also missed an important free throw in the final two minutes and was a nonfactor offensively throughout the fourth quarter as the 76ers once again went home in the second round.
The Hawks will face the Bucks with a spot in the NBA Finals on the line.