Good morning, Sixers fans. You can exhale after Tuesday’s 118-102 win over the Atlanta Hawks that tied this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series at one game apiece.
Joel Embiid has been listed as questionable before both games as he continues to recover from his meniscus injury, and all he has done is score 79 points.
Shake Milton broke out of his slump in a big way and contributed 14 points to Tuesday’s win, all in the second half.
Maybe somewhat overshadowed was the play of Seth Curry, who in the first two games against Atlanta has been hot from beyond the arc.
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Curry shooting down the Hawks
That Curry has found his groove from three-point range should not be surprising. After all, he is second all-time in career NBA three-point shooting percentage. Curry’s mark of 44.4% trails only Steve Kerr (45.4%) on the career list.
Yet in the first two games of the series, Curry has blown away his career percentage. After going 5-for-9 in the opening 128-124 loss Sunday, Curry was even better on Tuesday, going 5-for-6.
He is the only player in the series with as many as 10 made threes and is now 10-for-15 (66.7%).
In looking at his five made threes Tuesday, Curry was relatively wide open on each. If Atlanta doesn’t adjust, the Hawks will be in for a short series.
“I think it is just a nice bounce-back game for us and myself individually, just coming out trying to be consistent on both ends of the floor, stick to our coverages defensively, create havoc and do a lot of stuff,” Curry said. “Offensively, just be versatile, spread the floor and make plays..”
In the five-game first-round series win over the Washington Wizards, Curry shot just 34.5% from beyond the arc. In this second round, Atlanta has had no answer for Embiid or Tobias Harris down low, and that has opened up space for Curry, who has taken advantage of it.
According to the Basketball-Reference.com’s Stathead, Curry joined JJ Redick (four times) and Allen Iverson (twice) as the only Sixers ever to make at least five threes in more than one playoff game. In 27 career playoff games before the Atlanta series, Curry had never made more than four threes.
This has been an up-and-down season for Curry, who missed six games earlier in the season after testing positive for COVID-19 and has also been bothered by an ankle injury from time to time.
“I feel fine. Still for me, I think until I get the full summer I will be back to fully where I want to be, but I am more than good enough,” Curry said.
David Murphy writes that Nikola Jokić might be the NBA’s MVP, but an injured Joel Embiid is looking like the best player in the sport.
Here is our Sixers live blog for Game 2, which began the day of the game and continued throughout the conclusion.
Keith Pompey details the MVP voting, in which Denver’s Nikola Jokic was the winner while Embiid finished second. The Wells Fargo Center crowd thought otherwise during Tuesday’s game.
Monday was Allen Iverson’s birthday. Pompey writes that Matisse Thybulle paid tribute to the former Sixers great.
The Sixers and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey were both fined $75,000 for a tweet involving Golden State’s Steph Curry.
A frustrating night for Trae Young
The Sixers elected to start Tuesday’s game with Ben Simmons guarding Trae Young, and it made a major difference. In Game 1, Simmons was on Young for only 1 minute and 28 seconds, according to NBA.com stats. Young was 0-for-1 vs. Simmons in that game.
On Tuesday, according to NBA.com, Simmons was on Young for 5:10 and the Hawks point guard shot 2-for-5, including 0-for-2 from three.
Young finished the game with 21 points, shooting 6-for-16, including 1-for-7 from distance. That is in stark contrast to Game 1, when he scored 35 and was 11-for-23 overall and 4-for-11 from three.
“Obviously, Ben was guarding me a little more tonight, but I had a lot of shots I was open and didn’t hit them,” Young said. “I wish they would have fallen for my team, but I got [to get better].”
Young was right. On his seven three-point attempts, he had good looks on all of them, but Simmons blocked one. That has to get in the mind of a shooter.
The Sixers also did a good job of converging on Young when he beat a player off the dribble. It was a good adjustment from Game 1.
Eastern Conference semifinal series vs. Atlanta Hawks
Friday: Game 3, 7:30 p.m., State Farm Arena, ESPN
Monday, June 14: Game 4, 7:30 p.m., State Farm Arena, TNT
Wednesday, June 16: Game 5, TBD, Wells Fargo Center, TNT
Friday June 18: *Game 6, TBD, State Farm Arena, ESPN
Sunday, June 20: *Game 7, TBD, Wells Fargo Center, TBD
Passing the rock
Question: Do you think Shake can play like that consistently? — Luis Rodriguez from Facebook
Answer: Thanks for the question, Luis. I really don’t know. In his previous six games this postseason, Milton scored a total of 17 points. Then he erupted for 14 points in the second half Tuesday, in just over 14 minutes.
It’s easy to forget that Milton averaged 13 points during the regular season and he has the ability to put up some big numbers. It just hadn’t happened in the playoffs until Tuesday. He was averaging 2.8 points and shooting 21.1% from the field in the previous six playoff games.
Milton should get a lot of confidence from Tuesday’s performance and I expect Doc Rivers to ride the hot hand in Game 3, but I think I’d like to see Milton put a few strong games together before saying for sure that he will be consistent.