The resilient Atlanta Hawks have overcome 18- and 26-point deficits in the past two games to push the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers to the brink of elimination in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
The fifth-seeded Hawks will look to provide one final shove and advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2015 when they meet the 76ers for Game 6 in Atlanta on Friday.
“There’s no quit,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said after his team’s 109-106 win in Philadelphia in Game 5. “We always talk about playing a 48-minute game. It’s a long game. And it took all 48 minutes (on Wednesday) to get it done.”
With his team staring at a 72-46 deficit, John Collins drained a 3-pointer to ignite Atlanta on a 63-34 run over the final 20:21 of the contest.
“We know we’ve got a lot of guys who can make shots and make 3s and can really get our offense going,” Hawks star guard Trae Young said. “We can put up a lot of points really quick.”
Young proved that by scoring 13 of his 39 points over the final 4:30 of the fourth quarter. Atlanta finished with 40 points in the final stanza, marking its second highest-scoring fourth quarter in playoff history.
While a euphoric feeling enveloped the Atlanta contingent, the Philadelphia players were left with the very raw feeling of letting two potential victories slip through their fingers.
“This one is going to hurt,” Tobias Harris said. “It hurts. But (Thursday) we have to put it behind us, find a way to get better, go to Atlanta and get a win. Our backs are against the wall right now, and we have to play like it.”
Harris followed a string of seven straight performances of at least 20 points by scoring just four on 2-for-11 shooting from the floor on Wednesday.
Joel Embiid, who is playing through a knee injury, countered a dismal 0-for-12 stretch in the second half of a 103-100 setback to Atlanta on Monday by scoring 37 points two days later. The 7-footer and Seth Curry (playoff career-high 36 points) combined for 73 of the 106 points for Philadelphia, which mustered just 44 as a team in the second half of Wednesday’s contest.
Ben Simmons continues to star in a horror show at the free-throw line.
Simmons made 4 of 14 shots from the charity stripe before being benched in the fourth quarter on Wednesday. The top overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft is 22 of 67 (32.8 percent) from the free-throw line in the playoffs.
Despite his team’s many obstacles, 76ers coach Doc Rivers said he thinks the club will win in Atlanta on Friday and push the best-of-seven series to its limit.
“We’ll get back up,” Rivers said. “We’ll be back here for Game 7. I believe that. The mood was down; it was awful. What would you think it would be? It would have to be, right? And so this is part of sports. You have some awful moments.
“We have made this hard on ourselves. We have to own up to that. All of us. Then we have to get up and be ready for the next game. It’s going to be a crazy atmosphere. Good. We’ll be ready for it.”
Game, if necessary, is set for Sunday night in Atlanta.
–Field Level Media