The Philadelphia 76ers have reclaimed home-court advantage in their best-of-seven series with the Atlanta Hawks following their 127-111 win in Game 3 on Friday night.
As he has been throughout the series, Joel Embiid was masterful for the Sixers as he finished the win with a team-high 27 points. He had plenty of help though as Philadelphia had five other players also score in double figures with Tobias Harris leading the way with 22 points to help Embiid’s cause. On the other side, Trae Young led the Hawks with 28 points but, in the end, his contributions combined with the 59 points that John Collins, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari totaled weren’t enough to come away with the win at State Farm Arena.
Philadelphia now has an opportunity to push Atlanta’s backs against the wall if they’re able to pick up another win in Game 4 on Monday night.
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
1. Embiid dominates again
If you didn’t know that Joel Embiid had suffered a small meniscus tear in the first round, you would never be able to tell by the way he’s played against the Hawks. He put up 39 points and nine rebounds in Game 1.He followed that up with 40 points and 13 rebounds in Game 2, and then recorded 27 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and three blocks on Friday night in Game 3.
The Hawks have no answer for him, and he’s showing exactly why he finished second in MVP voting this season. He’s become such a gifted offensive player that opponents often have no choice but to foul him. He got to the line a whopping 16 times in Game 3 and has now earned free throws on 24.5 percent of his offensive possessions in the playoffs, per Synergy Sports.
Of course, he’s no slouch on the defensive end either, and was especially strong in Game 3. Just take this possession for example. He sprints across the lane to show help on Danilo Gallinari, recovers to his man, then gets across again to force Gallinari to pass, then recovers again for a huge block. Just ridiculous.
2. Sixers’ bench puts on a show
The first few minutes of this game were flat out awful. Neither team could buy a bucket, and there were nearly as many turnovers as made shots. That all changed when Furkan Korkmaz entered the game. He only had seven points in the first two games of this series, but immediately ripped off 11 straight to put the Sixers in front.
That turned into a running theme on the night. With Korkmaz leading the way, the Sixers’ bench put on a show, combining for 48 points on a stellar 17-of-28 from the field. They outscored the Hawks’ reserves by 16 points, which just so happened to be the exact margin of victory for the Sixers.
The Hawks were able to steal Game 1 of this series in large part because of a big performance from their bench, but the Sixers have flipped the script in the last two games. Game 2 was “The Shake Milton Game,” while this one was more of a group effort. Either way, getting this kind of offensive production from the bench is massive for the Sixers.
3. Sixers take control of the series
It was almost impossible to make any sort of concrete prediction about this series ahead of time when we still didn’t know if Joel Embiid would play, or how healthy he’d be if he did suit up. One thing everyone agreed upon, however, was that if he was close to 100 percent, the Sixers were clearly the superior team.
They’ve proven as much in Games 2 and 3. And really, even though they ended up losing the game, you throw the second half of Game 1 into that argument if you wanted. If the Sixers had put Ben Simmons on Trae Young from the start, they’d probably be up 3-0 in this series.
The Hawks are a solid team with a number of good offensive players, but they just don’t have enough talent to hang with the Sixers, who were one of the best teams in the league all season long. One of the best MMA fighters of all time, Daniel Cormier, once told an opponent, “there are levels to this game.” Trae Young and Co. are finding that out first hand.