Not only will the Atlanta Hawks attempt to win a Game 7 on the road when they visit the 76ers in Sunday night’s 8 p.m. finale of their Eastern Conference semifinal series that is tied at three games apiece, they will attempt to win their third road game of the series.
Atlanta squandered its chance to end the series with Friday’s 104-99 home loss in Game 6. They missed 11 of 24 free throws, were beaten on the offensive boards (14-8), and couldn’t take advantage of the fact that the Sixers shot just 4-for-18 in the fourth quarter.
Now the Hawks have other problems, namely will wing Bogdan Bogdanovic be available for the game?
Bogdanovic, who is averaging 14.8 points in the series but who has struggled the last three games, left for good in the fourth quarter of Game 6 with right knee soreness.
In a Saturday morning interview with reporters, Hawks interim coach Nate McMillan was noncommittal when asked of Bogdanovic’s availability for Sunday.
“I really don’t have an answer to that question,” McMillan said. “Right now, he is getting treatment and we will see how he feels later [Saturday] and [Sunday].”
Bogdanovic is listed as questionable on the NBA injury report.
While it’s easy to say, the Hawks can’t become too reliant on Trae Young, even though he has averaged 30.3 points and 11 assists in the first six games.
On Friday, Young accounted for 34 first-half points with 20 points and seven assists and yet the Hawks led just 51-47.
What happened was that Young wasn’t able to sustain that pace, especially in the fourth quarter when he shot 2-for-9.
The Hawks, who led by as many as 12 points in the first half, were asked if the moment was too big, the pressure of closing out a team too much?
Atlanta tried to downplay the fact that they weren’t able to clinch the series at home and the Hawks are clearly looking ahead.
“You know it’s not the end of the night, it’s just one game,” Young said on Friday. “They came in and took care of business and [forced] a Game 7. The other games don’t mean anything, it’s just one game.”
The Hawks appeared to be blindsided by Tyrese Maxey in Game 6. During the first five games of the series, he averaged just 2.6 points in 6.6 minutes. McMillan said that the Hawks weren’t surprised by Maxey, who scored 16 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and had a plus-7 rating in 29 minutes, 28 seconds.
“No, he’s played well during the regular season and I think he had a game where he played well against us in the regular season,” McMillan said, likely referring to a Sixers loss on Jan. 11 in Atlanta when Maxey scored 15 points. “He is a guy they have been using this season to bring that energy off the bench. I think with the addition of George Hill, it cut into his minutes, but no, he is not a surprise as far as what he is capable of doing out on the floor.”
So now the Sixers have regained homecourt advantage. On Saturday, McMillan gave a confident front and with good reason. The Hawks have already won twice this series in Philadelphia; 128-124, in Game 1 and 109-106 in Game 5.
He said the Hawks’ previous wins in Philadelphia, no doubt, provide a confidence booster.
“You have to look at the fact that we have won there twice in this series, so you should feel confident that you can win in this building,” McMillan said. “We have done well, I would say, in the playoffs on the road; we have played with confidence on the road.”
The Hawks went 2-1 on the road in winning their opening-round series against the New York Knicks and are 2-1 in this series with the Sixers.
The one difference is this is the first road game where they either must win or their offseason will begin.
“We are confident we can go in and win this game and continue to believe we have an opportunity,” McMillan said. “We put ourselves in a situation where we can win a Game 7, we didn’t take care of business [Friday], but we have another opportunity to advance.”