Game 6 between the Atlanta Hawks and the Philadelphia 76ers had everything from poster dunks to blackouts, to a testy battle between the two big men on the court as the 76ers forced a decisive Game 7.
Few players in the NBA dare to challenge Joel Embiid at the rim, and even fewer find themselves on the winning end of that battle, but Hawks forward John Collins dared and succeeded. He rose above all 84 inches of the 76ers star center to throw a signature Tre Young lob over the four-time NBA All-Star in the third quarter.
After the play, Embiid gave Collins a small shove, but the extracurriculars seemed to end there until the fourth quarter when Embiid landed on Collins. The Hawks forward responded with a shove of his own on Embiid, prompting a confrontation that spilled behind the basket that resulted in double technicals.
With Joel Embiid leading the way with 22 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks for Philly, the 76ers came out on top 104-99 to tie the series at 3-3 and set up a win-and-in matchup in Philadelphia.
Tensions were expected to be high with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals on the line and a shocking end to Game 5. The Hawks led the series 3-2 after overcoming a 26-point deficit on Wednesday night--tied for the third-largest playoff comeback in NBA history. The fourth-quarter collapse by the 76ers in Game 5 came in spite of playoff career-high scoring performances from Embiid and Seth Curry, with both turning in 36 points on the night.
Perhaps even more impressive than Embiid's performances is the fact that he has battled through a partially-torn meniscus suffered at the end of the 76ers first-round series against the Washington Wizards. The injury has noticeably limited his mobility at times, but he continued to will himself and his team to a strong performance on Friday night.
Collins finished the game with just seven points, one assist and two rebounds, but Young picked up the slack on the offensive end. He shot lights out until the lights in State Farm Arena literally went out toward the end of the fourth quarter.
Wells Fargo Center will be the stage for Game 7 on Sunday. A win for the Hawks would see them through to their first-ever appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. For the 76ers, a win Sunday would mark a critical juncture in "The Process," a journey to rebuild the franchise that took shape after they drafted Joel Embiid with the third overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Whoever comes out on top will face the winner of Game 7 between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Brooklyn Nets.