Good morning, Sixers fans. As the series resumes tonight, the main question remains: Is this series over?
After stumbling, 128-124, in Game 1, the Sixers have been dominant in the last two games.
It seems that Atlanta’s only chance is for Trae Young to play every game the way he did during the first half of the opener.
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Making Young work
During the first three games of the Eastern Conference semifinal against the Sixers, Atlanta point guard Trae Young has averaged 28.0 points, 9.7 assists and 1.7 steals. He seems to be the least of the Hawks’ problems.
Yet, he is the only player who can consistently create his own shot and, since the Sixers shifted Ben Simmons to defending him more often beginning in Game 2, Young has had to work harder for his shots.
It’s not only Simmons, but also the way the Sixers are trapping Young high, having him often being pursued by two players whose main goal is to get the ball out of his hands.
From the outside, this seems to be taking a major toll on Young. He appears to be wearing down as the game progresses.
After the Sixers’ 127-111 win Friday, Young denied that was the case.
“No. I felt fine. I feel good,” he said. “I have seen every type of coverage, every type of defense. It is all about trying to figure out, managing, and attack it, so no.”
Nobody would actually expect Young or any player to admit he was wearing down, but the statistics appear to disagree with his assessment.
Here are Young’s splits in the first and second half:
Game 1: Hawks’ 128-124 win
First half: 8-13 FG, 4-7 3pt, 5-5 FT, 7 A, 1 TO, 25 points
Second half: 3-10 FG, 0-4 3pt, 4-4 FT, 3 A, 3 TO, 10 points
Game 2: Sixers’ 118-102 win
First half: 4-8 FG 0-4 3pt, 3-4 FT, 6 A, 4 TO, 11 points
Second half: 2-8 FG 1-3 3pt, 5-6 FT 5 A, 0 TO, 10 points
Game 3: Sixers’ 127-111 win
First half: 5-9 FG, 1-2 3pt, 5-6 FT, 4 A, 2 TO, 16 points
Second half: 4-8 FG, 2-4 3pt, 2-2 FT, 4 A, 1 TO, 12 points
First half: 17-30 FG (56.6%); 5-13 3pt (38.4%); 13-15 FT (86.6%), 17 A, 7 TO, 52 points
Second half: 9-26 FG (34.6%); 3-11 3pt (27.2%), 11-12 FT (91.6%), 12 A, 4 TO, 32 points
Maybe he’s not wearing down as he suggests, maybe the Sixers are doing a better job of making second-half adjustments, but we reserve judgment on that. His field-goal percentage, including from three-point range, is down in the second half.
The Sixers are making him work hard, but interim Hawks coach Nate McMillan says that is nothing new.
“I don’t think it’s how hard he has to work — it is not like they are pressuring him up on the floor,” McMillan said after Sunday’s practice. “I think he has seen more aggressive defensive strategies against him.”
Still, the Sixers can throw a lot of size at Young, who is listed at 6-foot-1.
“Basically, they put a bigger guard on him and they are containing him. They are trying to keep him in front and not allow him to get into the paint,” McMillan said. “I think he has had to go against even more aggressive defenders than what he has seen in the last two games.”
It still appears as if it is taking a toll. That is why in regard to Young, Monday’s second half will be interesting to watch.
Dealing with the Sixers’ size has been a tall order for McMillan and his Hawks team.
Mike Sielski writes about the Hawks’ Bogdan Bogdanovic, who might not be a superstar but has shown clutch ability, especially in Atlanta’s Game 1 win.
Danny Green is expected to miss two to five weeks because of a Grade 2 calf strain. Doc Rivers pretty much knows who will replace Green in Monday’s starting lineup, but as Keith Pompey reports, the Sixers coach wasn’t about to announce his decision.
Pompey writes that the Sixers are locked in, focused on keeping momentum heading into Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals
Ed Barkowitz has his usual fact-filled extensive preview — 10 things to know for Game 4.
A revived Milwaukee Bucks team
The Milwaukee Bucks, who looked headed to an early offseason after trailing by two games to none in their Eastern Conference semifinal vs. the Brooklyn Nets, are very much alive.
The Bucks tied the series at 2-2 with Sunday’s 107-96 home win.
The Nets lost Kyrie Irving after he sprained his right ankle in the second quarter Sunday. After the game, Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said X-rays on Irving’s ankle were negative and he will undergo further tests on Monday.
Brooklyn was already missing James Harden, who has been sidelined since suffering a hamstring injury 43 seconds into Game 1.
The winner of the Sixers-Hawks series will face the winner of Bucks-Nets. Game 5 will be Tuesday in Brooklyn and Game 6 will be Thursday in Milwaukee, so the Nets won’t have much time for rest.
All of a sudden, the momentum has shifted to Milwaukee.
Nets sharpshooters Kevin Durant and Joe Harris have picked an inopportune time to go in a shooting slump. Durant shot 20-for-53 (37.7%), including 4-for-16 (25%) from three-point range, in the two losses. Harris, who led the NBA in three-point shooting percentage (47.5%) this season, has shot 3-for-13 (23%) from beyond the arc in the two losses.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has played well for the Bucks in the series, but he has to stay away from the three-point arc. He is just 4-for-21 (19%) from deep in the four games. He also is shooting only 11-for-29 from the foul line (37.9%).
Eastern Conference semifinal series vs. Atlanta Hawks
Monday: Game 4, 7:30 p.m., State Farm Arena, TNT
Wednesday: Game 5, 7:30 p.m., Wells Fargo Center, TNT
Friday: *Game 6, TBD, State Farm Arena, ESPN
Sunday: *Game 7, TBD, Wells Fargo Center, TBD
Passing the rock
Question: Who starts in place of Green? I say [Matisse] Thybulle. — Chuck Bailer from Facebook
Answer: Thanks for the question, Chuck. On Sunday, Rivers wasn’t willing to say whom he will start, although it appears as if he has made the decision. Thybulle could very well be the player, but I think it will be Furkan Korkmaz.
The reason I say this is that when Simmons leaves the court, Rivers can bring in Thybulle to take over defending Young. Rivers said his decision will be depend on whether he is looking for more offense or defense. When Green was starting, he provided both. The fact that Korkmaz is coming off his best playoff game this season, with 14 points in Game 3, leads me to think he will be the starter.