Despite a late 4th quarter run from the Sixers, the Hawks were in control from start to finish. Turnovers have been a consistent problem for the Sixers all season averaging about 14 per game, but their elite defense has allowed them to overcome that. Uncharacteristically, the Sixers defense was subpar today, especially in the first half, allowing the Hawks to score a Franchise record 74 points at the half.
Ben Simmons again struggled from the free throw line shooting just 30%. Simmons had a tremendous second half on the defensive side, especially late in the fourth which helped the Sixers claw their way back into the game. Danny Green couldn't quite seem to get going on either end of the floor today, going 0 for 4 from deep including 2 big misses down the stretch when the Sixers trimmed the lead to only single digits. The Sixers as a whole struggled from deep making only 10 threes on 29 attempts while the Hawks doubled that, going 20 for 47 from beyond the arch. Seth Curry was a lone bright spot from deep going 5 for 9.
After a 15 point first half, Tobias Harris was quiet in the second half. The Sixers didn't get Harris many touches in the second half which likely will change going forward given that he is the Sixers second leading scorer on the season.
The Sixers found success in the second half when they started to play more aggressive on defense and trap Trae Young and the Hawks when they crossed half court leading to turnovers and poor shot selections. Expect Doc Rivers and the coaching staff to dial up more of those aggressive defensive strategies as the series progresses.
Doc Rivers again went to an all bench lineup for a big stretch of the game which has been highly scrutinized by many. Rivers credited that after the game to the fact that the starters played a majority of the first quarter because of how quickly they fell behind. The Sixers will look to get going on and come out to a much hotter start on Tuesday which will allow the Sixers to stick to their normal rotations.
Joel Embiid was a game-time decision today, and he was able to come up big for the Sixers putting up a game-high 39 points. On a play late in the 4th quarter, Embiid came up hobbling after coming down awkwardly on his injured knee. With a quick turnaround as game 2 is Tuesday night, this is something to monitor over the next few days.
The Sixers will look to bounce back Tuesday at 7:30 pm and even up this series.
- Mike Devlin