Getting better play from the bench is the second-biggest improvement the 76ers have to make in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks.
The major storyline in the Hawks’ 128-124 Game 1 victory was Trae Young scoring 25 of his team-high 35 points in the first half.
By taking advantage of the Sixers’ all-bench lineup, the Hawks broke the game open with a 17-0 run that started with 42.9 seconds left in the opening quarter. It was capped by Bogdan Bogdanovic’s three-pointer with 9 minutes, 22 seconds left in the half, making the score 53-27. The Sixers battled back but could never get over that hump.
“During that first half ... it was tough on us,” rookie guard Tyrese Maxey said following Tuesday’s shootaround for Game 2 at the Wells Fargo Center. “But we made a couple of adjustments, trying to get more organized.
“We got to get stops, too, as a second unit so we can run and make plays for each other.”
The Sixers had Matisse Thybulle, Maxey, Dwight Howard, George Hill, and Furkan Korkmaz on the floor during most of the Hawks’ run. Starting power forward Tobias Harris came back into the game for Thybulle after the Hawks built a 20-point lead. Three other starters, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Danny Green, returned to the game shortly after Bogdonavic’s three gave Atlanta a commanding 26-point cushion.
The Hawks made 5-of-7 baskets during the run, while the Sixers missed all four of their shots and committed five turnovers.
The Sixers’ backups — Thybulle (minus-12), Maxey (-9), Hill (-17), Howard (-15), Korkmaz (-12), and Shake Milton (-2) — finished the game a combined minus-67. Milton played only 38 seconds. Meanwhile, the Sixers’ starters were a combined plus-47.
Asked about the biggest adjustment the Sixers need to make from Game 1 to Game 2, Maxey responded, “Just being solid, knowing what the game plan is, sticking to the game plan, and do what we do.”
He spoke of the Sixers being a defensive team known for making adjustments on the fly.
”We just have to go out there and execute,” Maxey said.
The Sixers have suffered Game 1 setbacks in their last 10 second-round appearances. They are 1-8 in their last nine second-round appearances. The Sixers beat the Raptors in seven games in 2001 and finished as NBA Finals runners-up.
They’re looking to win a second-round series for just the second time in the franchise’s last 11 appearances, dating to 1986.