For the second straight game the Philadelphia 76ers have collapsed. After seeing a 14-point first half lead erased in Game 4 in Atlanta, the Sixers decided to one-up themselves back home in Philly by running out to a 24-point halftime lead in Game 5 before playing one of the worst fourth quarters in playoff history.
Early on it was the Joel Embiid show, as he had 24 points and 10 rebounds, starting the game 8-for-8 from the field and flat out dominating Clint Capela and the Hawks.
Embiid is LOCKED IN 😤
17 PTS | a perfect 8-8 FG pic.twitter.com/mzjxcI8c0r
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 17, 2021
It was a masterful two-way performance from the Sixers in the first half, who took a 62-40 lead into the break and seemed ready to exorcise the demons of Game 4. The Sixers were able to mostly hold off the Hawks in the third quarter, pushing their lead to as many as 24 with two minutes to go in the third and taking an 18-point advantage to the fourth, thanks in large part to a sensational shooting night from Seth Curry.
Seth Curry comes off the screen and drills his 7th triple! ☔️
— NBA (@NBA) June 17, 2021
However, Doc Rivers once again went to the bench unit with Tobias Harris to open the final period after they struggled mightily in the second quarter but were bailed out by the Hawks’ inability to score themselves. This time, though, the Hawks’ bench made them pay, led by Lou Williams who had 13 points in the fourth to reel in the Sixers for the starters.
13 points in the 4th and counting… pic.twitter.com/hNPOnYskt3
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) June 17, 2021
Williams would stay in with the closing unit as Atlanta once again went big with John Collins at the three and the Sixers, like in Game 4, couldn’t crack the code of that lineup. Philly’s offense completely collapsed, with Seth Curry as the only player capable of hitting a shot, Simmons getting hacked all the way to the bench, and Joel Embiid falling in love with trying to get to the free throw line.
Eventually, the game got down to single digits and the Hawks took their first lead of the game when Trae Young got Matisse Thybulle to jump on a three-point pumpfake and earned three free throws with 1:26 to play, hitting them all to take a 105-104 lead. On the Sixers next possession, Embiid found Harris under the hoop for what looked like a wide open layup but John Collins came screaming into the paint to reject his shot attempt as he went up soft.
Danilo Gallinari then got Seth Curry in the post and, despite a solid effort from Curry, he just didn’t have the length to bother the Gallinari fadeaway to get Atlanta out to a three-point lead.
— NBA (@NBA) June 17, 2021
Seth Curry and Trae Young each missed three-point attempts on successive possessions, and Joel Embiid got himself to the line with 10.9 seconds to play and then missed both free throws, with Kevin Huerter grabbing the rebound. On the ensuing inbound, Matisse Thybulle had a steal but stumbled and fell down, allowing the smaller Young to grab the ball and get himself to the free throw line with 8.4 to play. After Young hit his two free throws to ice the game, the Sixers got a final midrange bucket from Curry with 0.1 to go to see the Hawks pull off what was, in full, a 26-point comeback, including being down 18 to open the fourth, to take Game 5 on the road and move one game away from the Eastern Conference Finals.
The final four and a half minutes are, truly, something to behold.
The 76ers had a 97.5% chance of winning Game 5 with 4:23 remaining.
Then, this happened 😳⤵️ pic.twitter.com/LXYUEjtpxi
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 17, 2021
Young finished with 39 points and seven assists after a slow start, getting to the line 19 times and hitting 17. John Collins had another terrific close in the big lineup to finish with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari combined for 31 off the bench. For Philly, Embiid finished with 37 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, four blocks, and two steals, but only Seth Curry with a new playoff career-high 36 touched double-digits for the Sixers, as Simmons and Harris were almost complete no-shows on the offensive end.
After how they’ve lost the last two games, the Sixers have to figure something out offensively in the fourth quarter. Rivers’ use of the bench lineup to start the fourth and not adjusting that will be rightfully skewered, but even once the starters got back on the court they couldn’t make anything happen. Harris looked like he wanted no part of the game, Simmons had to get benched when the Hawks went to the hacking game as he was 4-of-14 from the stripe, and Embiid once again grew obsessed with getting to the foul line when calls just weren’t coming his way. In the entire second half, the only two players to make a basket for the Sixers were Embiid and Curry — Harris, Simmons, and Korkmaz each scored two points at the free throw line — and Embiid was just 3-of-9 from the field.
I can’t really believe what I’m seeing: Joel Embiid and Seth Curry were the only Sixers to make a basket in the second half. pic.twitter.com/2c5yijUn5r
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) June 17, 2021
The Hawks will have a chance to wrap up the series at home in Atlanta, which is unbelievable given how the first three quarters went, but they continue to show their resiliency and, for a young team with not a ton of playoff experience, they are the ones closing fourth quarters out with a calm demeanor.