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Joel Embiid scores 40, 76ers take care of ball on way to win, tie up series with Hawks

A lot of things went better for Philadelphia in Game 2 than they had just a couple of nights before.

Tobias Harris started playing downhill and took 15 shots in the paint. Seth Curry was 5-of-6 from 3. Shake Milton was the hottest shooter on the planet for a stretch scoring 14. And once again, Joel Embiid was a force, bad knee or not: 40 points and 13 rebounds (the first Sixer to put up 40+ and 13+ in a playoff game since Wilt Chamberlain).

But the biggest difference was the 76ers took care of the ball during their runs — the Sixers had one turnover the entire second half (and it came late, with the game in hand). Philadelphia turned the ball over on just 9.3% of its possessions (they were at 14.4% for the season).

Those players and that care for the ball helped the Sixers go on a run through the end of the third quarter into the start of the fourth — 28 points on 14 possessions —that opened up the game. From there, the Sixers went on to win 118-102, tying up their second-round series with the Hawks 1-1.

The series now heads to Atlanta for Game 3 on Friday night.

Once again, Embiid was the heart of all things Sixers — they were +14 in his 34:40, and +2 in the remaining 13:20.

In this game, however, Embiid got the help he did not in Game 1 — Harris had 22, Curry 21 — plus Ben Simmons did a better job containing Trae Young (who also missed some shots he usually makes). Young finished with 21 points but was just 1-of-7 from three.

Philadelphia came out with a sense of desperation after their Game 1 loss, and Atlanta wasn’t ready for it. The 76ers shot the ball well — led by Tobias Harris, who had 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting in the first as he went right at Solomon Hill — and, more importantly, the 76ers didn’t turn the ball over as they had in Game 1.

The Sixers raced out to a 23-6 lead and led by as many as 18 early on, but the Hawks kept their composure — and they had their bench. Atlanta got 32 points off the bench in the first half to Philadelphia’s zero. Both Kevin Huerter and Danilo Gallinari scored 15 before the break — and those two hit threes in the final :30 seconds to cut the 76ers lead to two at the half, 57-55. Gallinari finished the game with 21, Huerter 20.

Embiid came close to getting ejected before halftime and has to be smarter than this — he can’t get drawn into tit-for-tat technicals. He is too important to Philly.

In the second quarter, Gallinari had gone to the ground trying to sell a charging call on Embiid that he didn’t get. After Embiid dunked, a teammate helped Gallinari up and he gave the sly veteran shoulder to Embiid (some on NBA Twitter suggested Gallo was just being helped up, I think he could have avoided contact if he wanted to). Embiid then overreacted and shoved Gallinari in the back.

Both Embiid and Gallinari earned technicals.

Atlanta took an 80-79 lead with 2:41 left in the third on a pair of Young free throws, but that’s when Philly went on its run — Milton was draining threes, Embiid was getting to the free throw line, and there was nothing that Atlanta could do.

Atlanta kept fighting, but the Sixers held on to that lead, and now they head to Atlanta in what is essentially a best-of-five series now.