Atlanta Hawks

Sixers' Mike Scott has Flagrant 2 call vs. Hawks downgraded to Flagrant 1 by NBA

Sixers' Mike Scott has Flagrant 2 call vs. Hawks downgraded to Flagrant 1 by NBA

The officiating crew had a rough one Monday night during Sixers-Hawks — to neither team's benefit — but the league is rectifying one of its worst decisions on the night.

The most egregious call came when Mike Scott was whistled for a Flagrant 2 after making contact with Atlanta big man Damian Jones and was ejected late in the first half after a review. On Tuesday, the NBA downgraded it to a Flagrant 1.

Here was the play in question.

The main difference between a Flagrant 1 and a Flagrant 2 is that a Flagrant 1 is called for unnecessary contact. A Flagrant 2 is unnecessary and excessive contact.

You could make the argument that Scott didn’t make a natural basketball play to warrant a Flagrant 1. But a Flagrant 2? It looked like a bad call — even after several replays.

While it doesn’t help the Sixers for that game — though they did win to improve to 3-0 — it’ll likely help Scott’s wallet if he's called for another Flagrant down the road.

Joel Embiid was also called for a questionable technical. After a savage posterizing dunk on John Collins, Embiid celebrated with a little shimmy. It appears the officials deemed it as Embiid taunting Collins.

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Joel Embiid was dominant vs. Hawks, but struggled with double teams, turnovers

Joel Embiid was dominant vs. Hawks, but struggled with double teams, turnovers

There were times Monday night where Joel Embiid was flat out dominant.

The All-Star center, returning from a one-game absence while nursing a right ankle sprain, put up 36 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block in 33 minutes of the Sixers’ thrilling 105-103 win over the Hawks at State Farm Arena (see observations).

Still, Embiid wasn’t satisfied.

“I don't think I had a good game,” Embiid told reporters postgame. “Seven turnovers is way too many, especially coming off a game against Boston where I had zero. So, got to work on that. I got to work on my passing, got to be more patient, got to be better for my teammates so we're in better situations.”

While it’s true that the seven turnovers are far too many, the now 3-0 Sixers don’t take down exciting young guard Trae Young and Atlanta without Embiid’s efforts.

“He to me — and statistically it's a no brainer when you listen to what I'm going to say — he was our crown jewel in a blatant way tonight,” Brett Brown said. “We have talent, no doubt, but he emerged in significant ways throughout the game. I thought that he and we did a pretty good job of executing a play at the end of the game trying to find ways to either get him straight up or on a high-low. And we were able to do that, but Joel Embiid carried us tonight and we needed him — particularly offensively.”

Brown and the Sixers clearly made a conscious effort to get their big man the ball in the post in the second half. 

Overall, the offense looked stagnant. The ball wasn’t moving as well as it has at times through the first three games. The team’s shooting, a concern coming into this season, hasn’t progressed the way Brown hoped it would. They shot just 11 of 41 (26.8 percent) from three on Monday and are the fourth-worst three-point shooting team (29.8 percent) in the NBA.

Tobias Harris in particular couldn’t get it going after posting 29 points and carrying the Sixers Saturday night in Detroit. He hit just 1 of 9 from three and was 5 of 16 overall.

Despite the turnovers, Embiid’s presence in the post carried the Sixers Monday.

“That's his game,” Harris said. “I mean, he's unstoppable down there. For us, we were really kind of struggling offensively. So that was a good way for us to get some easy looks and be able to get to the free throw line, slow the game down a little bit and make them [work] more on the defensive side.”

With Jimmy Butler taking his talents to South Beach, another question facing the Sixers was about who would be the team’s go-to scorer down the stretch. Butler tended to do his best work in the fourth quarter and hit several game-winning shots.

When asked who he thought would fill that role at media day, Embiid was quick to say he thought he could do it. While the league has changed and it’s tougher for big men to be go-to guys late in games, Embiid is the team’s “crown jewel,” as Brown has said innumerable times.

With the game tied at 103-103 with 7.4 seconds left, the Sixers once again dumped the ball into Embiid. With forward John Collins — who he savagely posterized in the third and picked up a technical for his shimmy celebration — hanging on for dear life, Embiid drew a foul. He made both free throws to cap off a perfect 10-for-10 performance from the line and seal the win.

For at least one night, it worked.

“That's something you work on all summer,” Embiid said. “You got to be ready for it. You got to be ready to be in that position, especially after we lost Jimmy, who was our guy especially in the fourth. So someone has got to step it up and I feel like that's me.”

As for the turnovers and dealing with double teams, Embiid is working on that as well.

“I mean every game it's coming,” Embiid said of the double teams. “You got to find the balance between being dominant and making the right plays. Being dominant, especially when the double teams come, that's the time to kind of find low, quick duck-ins and quick baskets in those situations.

“I thought for the most part tonight I was careless with a ball, but I felt like my patience in the post was better than previous years. Still getting better. I had a couple [plays where] they doubled hard and then I lost a couple balls. And then I had two turnovers where [I was] trying to dump it into the cutter so I got to make better reads. It's on me, but I'm definitely gonna get better.”

The thought of Embiid improving should be a scary proposition for the rest of the league.

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Joel Embiid has massive game vs. Hawks and hits game-winning free throws to help Sixers stay unbeaten

Joel Embiid has massive game vs. Hawks and hits game-winning free throws to help Sixers stay unbeaten

BOX SCORE 

Somehow, someway the Sixers are still unbeaten.

They earned their third straight win to begin the season Monday night, 105-103 over the Atlanta Hawks, after trailing by as many as 13 points. 

Joel Embiid played after missing the Sixers’ win Saturday over the Pistons with a right ankle sprain and was massive in his return, with 36 points and 13 rebounds. He made two free throws with 5.3 seconds left after the Hawks' John Collins tipped in a missed Trae Young free throw. Embiid got deep position in the paint as the Sixers set up a high-low between Al Horford and Embiid, leading to a foul from Collins. Vince Carter missed a running three-point attempt at the buzzer for the win.

The Sixers will look to move to 4-0 Wednesday night, when they play the Minnesota Timberwolves at Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./NBCSP).

Here are observations from the win:

Welcome back, big man 

The Sixers came back to win in Detroit without Embiid, but the All-Star center reminded them Monday night of all they missed.

He dished a highly unorthodox assist to Ben Simmons in the first quarter and scored 19 first-half points on 6 for 7 shooting.

Embiid has said he would cut down on the trash talk this season. He didn’t seem to say much after a powerful dunk on John Collins, but he couldn’t resist a little shimmy. The officials gave him a technical for that boisterous celebration.

The biggest weakness for Embiid — and we’ve said this plenty before — was his decision-making against double teams. The big man had five assists and seven turnovers, often waiting a second too long before starting his move or identifying his outlet. 

The Trae Young Show

Young is a unique talent.

The 6-foot-1 guard is in range soon after he crosses half court, and he has excellent vision and creativity as a passer. He helped Atlanta take a 24-11 lead with some of his hallmarks — threes from the logo and one-handed passes to shooters on the fast break.

Young tested the Sixers’ pick-and-roll defense. Though they threw in a few blitzes, the Sixers mostly stuck to their basic principles, which made sense — there’s no way to guard against contested, 30-foot jumpers, and nothing to be gained from trying to do so. He finished with 25 points on 7 for 20 shooting, which qualifies as a decent effort by the Sixers. 

With over 10 minutes left in the game, Young drew the fifth foul on Josh Richardson (14 points, three rebounds, three assists), leaning into the Sixers’ guard and drawing three free throws. Richardson returned to the action late and made an important block on rookie De'Andre Hunter.

The defensive whiz kid 

When Richardson went to the bench, Matisse Thybulle became the primary defender on Young for a stretch, and he defended the Eastern Conference Player of the Week very well throughout the night. The rookie had three steals and two blocks in just six first-quarter minutes and also knocked down a spot-up three. Not only did Thybulle look like he belonged on the floor, he kept the Sixers in a game they could easily have fallen out of early. 

Thybulle finished with eight points, four steals and two blocks. He’s immediately made the Sixers’ pick-and-roll defense better with his ability to jump on top of screens and force turnovers when he seems to be far behind the play.

A baffling decision

Mike Scott was ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul with 1:36 remaining in the second quarter. It was a hard foul by Scott on Atlanta’s Damian Jones to stop a transition opportunity.

The foul did not appear to meet the NBA’s criteria for a Flagrant 2, which is defined as “unnecessary and excessive contact” and an “unsportsmanlike act.”

Scott shook Jones’ hand after the incident, which didn’t put the Hawks player at risk for an injury or generally seem like an act worthy of ejection in real time. Quite simply, the decision removed an impactful player from the game — Scott should have been available for the Sixers in the second half. 

Not accepting the invitations 

Simmons scored nine of the Sixers’ first 16 points, but he only had four after that. The point guard added six assists and six rebounds. He does deserve plenty of credit for guarding Young well when Brown put him on the Hawks’ star in the final few minutes. 

We won’t harp on it, but it’s difficult to avoid the observation that Simmons has yet to incorporate the jump shot into a regular part of his game. Atlanta gave him ample space to shoot and he didn’t accept the invitations. 

Milton goes down 

Shake Milton stayed in Brown’s rotation after stepping up in Detroit and taking some of Furkan Korkmaz’s minutes. Milton was having a decent night Monday, with nine points in 12 minutes, when he went down late in the third quarter on a drive against Jabari Parker and grabbed at his left knee. The 23-year-old hobbled off under his own power. According to the Sixers, he hyperxtended his left knee on the play. 

Horford and Harris come back to Earth a bit 

Tobias Harris and Horford, who combined for 52 points vs. the Pistons, had just 18 points total against Atlanta.

Horford (five points on 1 for 4 shooting) was deferential, while Harris missed a handful of open looks and didn’t find his shot until the fourth quarter.

He came through when the Sixers needed him, though, scoring eight of his 13 points in the final period, including a short turnaround jumper that gave the Sixers a 103-100 lead with 42 seconds remaining. 

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