The Atlanta Hawks continued their golden run in the NBA's Eastern Conference playoffs by stealing home court from Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Point guard Trae Young, who was held up as a villain by the now eliminated New York Knicks, torched the 76ers to the tune of 35 points and 10 assists in the 128-124 victory.
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A solid comeback in the second half, after trailing by 20 points at one point in the first, wasn't enough for the Sixers.
Simmons scored 17 points and had 10 assists of his own, but he rarely had the job of guarding Young - despite his status as a finalist for the league's Defensive Player of the Year award.
Philly coach Doc Rivers instead left veteran shooter Danny Green to handle Young, and while no slouch of a defender himself, Young's first half explosion proved too much to overcome.
The Hawks didn't rely on just Young though, with Bogdan Bogdanovic (21 points, five threes) proving a handful for Simmons as well.
But the decision not to put the team's best defender in Simmons on Atlanta's best scorer didn't go down well with the Sixers faithful.
The choice was described as 'the worst of both worlds' Kyle Neubeck of the Philly Voice, who added that it added up to 'malpractice' on Rivers' behalf.
“All fingers were pointed at Danny Green as early as the first quarter, and he was certainly having a bad time defending Trae Young,” he said.
“If you are of the opinion that Ben Simmons should be Young’s primary cover, I am not here to argue with you. Leaving Green on Young for as long as the Sixers did was absolute malpractice.”
Ben Simmons gears up for NBA showdown with Trae Young
Rivers defended the decision after the game, but Simmons was clearly keen to be given the assignment for game two.
“I probably would do that (guard Young). I mean, I want to,” he said.
“If the refs aren’t gonna call so many fouls and I can be physical and be 6’10”, then I’ll be 6’10”. But we’ll see.”
Meanwhile, fans on Twitter remained perplexed by the matchups.
Atlanta scored 76 first-half points and led by as many as 26 points. The inexperienced Hawks took their foot off the gas and nearly blew their comfortable lead in the waning minutes with a comedy of turnovers.
Embiid's back-to-back layups capped an 11-0 run that cut the deficit to a single possession with 1:01 remaining.
Hawks wing Bogdanovic (21 points) responded with a 3-pointer that pushed the lead back to 121-115. He borrowed a page from Young's playbook and shushed the Wells Fargo Center crowd.
Twice more the Sixers clawed back within a possession.
A Tobias Harris steal and layup made it 121-118 with 23.2 seconds left. Atlanta's John Collins (21 points) answered with five straight points.
Philadelphia scored the next six in a wild six-second span, culminating in a Simmons steal and dunk that sliced the deficit to 126-124 with 10.5 seconds on the clock.
Two Bogdanovic free throws finally gave the Hawks their game in hand.
Harris (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Simmons (17 points, 10 assists) both finished with double-doubles for the Sixers, and Seth Curry added 21 points. Young and a deeper Hawks roster withstood it all.
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