Embiid sparks third quarter run, lifts 76ers past Hawks for 2-1 series lead
ATLANTA — Joel Embiid kept taking falls. He also kept rising to his feet.
Nothing was going to take Philadelphia’s big center off the court with the playoff series lead on the line.
Embiid scored 27 points and the 76ers rode a dominant third quarter to a 127-111 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night and a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Embiid, playing with a cartilage tear in his right knee, added nine rebounds, eight assists and three blocked shots. He played 34 minutes despite turning his ankle on one fall and landing hard on his back on another.
“I’m OK,” Embiid said. “I’m standing up. I’m walking. I finished the game. So I’m gonna keep getting back up. I’m going to keep fighting. That’s been me since I’ve been playing basketball. ... Whatever happens, get back up and keep it going.”
Tobias Harris had 22 points and Ben Simmons added 18 to help the 76ers end Atlanta’s streak of 13 home wins. The 76ers have taken the series lead with back-to-back wins.
Simmons has had primary defensive responsibility against Trae Young, who led Atlanta with 28 points, in each of the 76ers’ two wins in the series. On Friday night, he was challenged to take a bigger offensive role, especially with Embiid facing constant double-teams.
“I was just trying to push the pace and get in the lane, stay aggressive and get to the rim, get into a rhythm,” Simmons said. “I think I did a good job of that in the second half.”
The 76ers played up to their No. 1 seed, taking a lead of 22 points and keeping the advantage in double figures most of the second half. The Hawks played from behind after their last lead at 11-10.
Trae Young led Atlanta with 28 points. John Collins had 23 and Bogdan Bogdanovic 19.
Game 4 is Monday night in Atlanta.
The Hawks have difficulty matching up with Embiid (7-0, 280) but also have size disadvantages at other spots, including with the 6-foot-9 Simmons guarding the 6-foot-1 Young.
“It’s not anything we can’t adjust to,” Young said.
But when asked what the Hawks can do, Young added “Obviously, if I had the answers, we wouldn’t be talking about it right now.”
The 76ers outscored the Hawks 66-58 in the paint and 15-6 on fast breaks.
“I think their size has had an impact on this series,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “They just pretty much pounded us in the paint tonight.”
After leading 65-60 early in the third period, Philadelphia took command with an 11-0 run. The 76ers outscored the Hawks 34-19 in the third period.
Simmons had two baskets during the run, including a jam for a 76-60 lead.
Atlanta couldn’t regain the momentum as the 76ers stretched the lead to 20 points, 93-73, late in the period.
Embiid, who faced constant double-teams from Atlanta’s defense, made 12 of 16 free throws.
Embiid had a scare in the third quarter when he limped and appeared to be in pain after grabbing a rebound. Embiid appeared to step awkwardly on Clint Capela’s foot, turning his ankle.
“He’s playing hard,” said 76ers coach Doc Rivers. “He’s giving us everything. ... He is going through a lot, I’ll tell you that.”