Sixers-Hawks observations: Overcoming blown lead for 1st home win

Sixers-Hawks observations: Overcoming blown lead for 1st home win


There was one team that gave up an early 17-point lead and another one that scored just 16 points in the fourth quarter. 

The Sixers were the ones to bounce back while the Hawks blundered down the stretch in a 119-109 win on Wednesday. 

Joel Embiid reached the 30-minute mark for the first time in his career as he carried the Sixers down the stretch with 11 points and five boards in the fourth quarter.

The Sixers improved to 4-4 with their first home victory of the season, while the Hawks fell to 1-7. The Sixers also continued to snap long losing streaks against opponents, like they did in Houston. The Sixers had dropped the previous seven games to the Hawks and had not beaten them since March 7, 2015.

• This was going to be a blowout, right? Not so fast. The Sixers jumped out to a 25-8 lead with 5:20 to play in the first quarter. The Hawks outscored them 17-9 in the period after that. The Sixers still had a nine-point advantage after the quarter, powered by eight points from Robert Covington (who ended up with 22 points) and 6 for 7 three-point shooting as a team.

• The Hawks’ game plan between quarters worked. They went on an 11-2 run to tie it up, 57-57, off six points from Dennis Schroder (he scored a game-high 25). The Sixers led by two, 59-57, at the end of the second quarter. Only Covington (2 for 2) and Embiid (0 for 2) attempted free throws for the Sixers in the half.

• The third quarter was evenly matched. Ben Simmons and Schroder dropped 10 points apiece as the teams were tied 93-93 after the third. The Sixers were more aggressive getting to the line (10 for 16), but gave up nine points off five turnovers.  

• The Sixers were cool and collected in the fourth. For the second straight game, they made that takeover time. The Sixers outscored the Hawks 26-16 in the frame. The Hawks went cold as they shot 5 for 20 from the field. 

• Embiid had his hands all over the court. With 21 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks, he affected this game in more ways than a typical true center (see highlights)

• Simmons was just one assist short of a triple-double: 19 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. 

Since Simmons has started taking more jumpers, let’s track them here with the #SimmonsShotWatch. He kicked off the game with a 16-foot jump shot. After that, he didn’t attempt another shot beyond 11 feet (excluding an 86-foot toss at the end of the first quarter). But really, that doesn’t matter when he’s making moves like this:

• The Sixers went with a new starting lineup against the Hawks. JJ Redick returned after missing two games because of lower-back tightness. He joined Simmons, Covington, Embiid and … Dario Saric. 

That change moved Jerryd Bayless to the bench. It accomplished two factors: helped Saric continue to get a rhythm as he is clearly the most comfortable as a starter and added an offensive boost to the second unit in Bayless. Brown reiterated the starting five will be fluid this season and he’s more concerned with which players end the game.

• Redick wasn’t back to his sharpshooting form yet. He was 3 of 11 from the field, including 0 for 6 in the third, and 1 for 6 from three overall. Redick hit his first trey with less than three minutes to play. He entered the game shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from long range. Still, he logged 32 minutes.

• Jahlil Okafor stayed engaged with the Sixers after stating earlier in the day he would like a buyout or a trade (see story). Okafor was up on his feet to high five teammates during timeouts and between quarters. 

• Injury updates: Covington suffered a knee right hyperflexion in the second half and returned. Markelle Fultz (right shoulder soreness, muscle imbalance) and Richaun Holmes (left wrist fracture) remained out. 

Hawks guard Malcolm Delaney suffered a sprained right ankle and did not return. He scored eight points in nine minutes off the bench. St. Joe’s product DeAndre’ Bembry (fractured right wrist), former Sixer Ersan Ilyasova (left knee bone bruise) and Miles Plumlee (strained right quad) did not play for the Hawks. 

• Fly, Eagles, fly. Eagles offensive linemen Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks rang the ceremonial bell. Former wide receiver Freddie Mitchell was also at the game. Philly rapper Lil Uzi Vert helped out with the T-shirt toss, too. 

Sixers eager to learn whether they can deliver final blow to Heat

Sixers eager to learn whether they can deliver final blow to Heat

Now comes the hard part.

Sure, the Sixers return to the Wells Fargo Center for Tuesday night’s Game 5 with a 3-1 series lead over the Miami Heat. But everyone knows the fourth and final victory to eliminate an opponent is the toughest one.

“You’re throwing jabs, you’re feeling each other out. Then later on in the series, you have to deliver a crushing blow,” JJ Redick said at Monday’s practice. “You have to finish them.”

This version of the Sixers has never finished off a playoff series and it’s been quite a while since the organization has advanced in the postseason at all.

The last time was May 10, 2012, when the Sixers knocked off the top-seeded and severely banged-up Chicago Bulls. Andre Iguodala made a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds left in Game 6 to give the Sixers a 79-78 home win to reach the second round.

Those were the days of the “Show Ya Luv” Sixers. That squad featured varied first-round draft picks, who made the most out of playing with heart and hustle. 

These “Trust the Process” Sixers comprised of topflight lottery picks are finding out that same formula carries weight in the postseason and certainly Philadelphia. It’s the superstar-level talent that sets the 2017-18 team apart from the previous group and has it thinking about more than just a single series victory.

“A lot of people say that we have a bright future, but I think our time is now,” Joel Embiid said (see story). “We have a pretty good chance. We have a special team, a lot of great guys. I don’t think we need anybody else. We’ve just got to work with what we have, and we have a special team. I feel like we have a pretty good chance to go far.”

The latest step in the Sixers’ journey is available to them at 8 p.m. in front of a crowd that will be at full throat once things tip off.

Will they deliver that knockout blow? It won’t be easy either way, but the franchise is eager to see how it handles the next challenge in this real-time maturation process now taking place on the NBA’s grandest stage.

“I look at the playoffs and I look at our team, we have as much room for growth as anybody,” head coach Brett Brown said. “I think we have more room for growth. I look at this as a really exciting opportunity. You sort of go through college and now here we are in grad school, if you will. We have a chance to learn a lot more. A lot more. And we need to.”

Joel Embiid ready for home playoff debut, says Sixers' 'time is now'

USA Today Images

Joel Embiid ready for home playoff debut, says Sixers' 'time is now'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid received a text message from across the NBA following the Sixers’ 27-point win over the Heat in Game 1. 

It was from Draymond Green, sending his championship-winning insight. 

“Draymond texted me after the first game when we blew Miami out,” Embiid recalled Monday. “He basically told me that it’s not going to be the same in Game 2. They came back and they won that game.” 

Green was right. Each contest has been a match of adjustments, including Embiid’s return from a 10-game layoff. Wearing a required mask with goggles, Embiid played in the Sixers’ Game 3 and Game 4 victories. 

Now he’s poised to make his postseason home debut Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center, where he’s been eager to compete in a playoff game his entire career. 

“The atmosphere was amazing, it was insane,” Embiid said of the home crowd in Games 1 and 2. “After going to Miami, I felt like nothing compared to it. … We’ve been almost perfect [at home] since the beginning of the year. It just shows you how much we need them. Especially myself, I play better in that type of environment. I need the fans to get into it and push me. That makes me elevate my game.” 

Embiid’s offensive game has been impacted since coming back from a concussion and left orbital fracture suffered on March 28. He scored 23 points (5 for 11 FG) with seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three turnovers in Game 3. The following game, he posted 14 points (2 for 11 FG, 0 for 4 from three), 12 rebounds, five blocks and eight turnovers. Embiid is shooting 31.8 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from the line in the series. 

“The main thing, especially when it (the offense) doesn’t go my way, is just be a beast defensively,” he said. 

Embiid cannot play without the protective mask, though, which he has described as “annoying” and “weird.” Markelle Fultz and Amir Johnson tried on the goggles after practice Monday to get a glimpse into his line of vision. 

“They kind of saw my pain when I have to wear them,” Embiid said. “But that can’t be an excuse. I have to get used to it.” 

Embiid’s mindset going into Game 5 is to close out the Heat series and get some extra time before the second round (see story). The Celtics and Bucks series is tied 2-2. He sees the first round as just the starting point for the Sixers’ postseason. 

“A lot of people say that we have a bright future, but I think our time is now,” Embiid said. “We have a pretty good chance. We have a special team, a lot of great guys. I don’t think we need anybody else. We’ve just got to work with what we have, and we have a special team. I feel like we have a pretty good chance to go far. 

"So it’s just about us taking care of the little things, like not turning the ball over, just playing together, like we've been doing, sharing the ball, not be selfish, and everything is going to take care of itself." 

Embiid will take the court for his first postseason game in Philadelphia when the Sixers tip off against the Heat at 8 p.m. Tuesday on NBCSP.

"The playoffs, that’s kind of like you play in front of the whole world," Embiid said. "I feel like I thrive in that type of situation because I feel like I was made for this."