The Philadelphia 76ers have been sizable favorites to advance past the Atlanta Hawks in their second-round playoff series. But the Hawks have used back-to-back second-half comebacks to take a 3-2 lead in the series. Now, with the Sixers’ backs against the wall, Philadelphia will need to get a win on the road to avoid being sent home early once again in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
In Games 4 and 5 of this series, the Philadelphia 76ers have collapsed in the second half, averaging just 41 points in those two halves of basketball. In Game 4, Joel Embiid went 0-12 from the field in the second half, while Embiid and Seth Curry were the only two 76ers to make a field goal in the second half of Game 5. In Game 6, a similar performance in the second half will see their season come to an end.
If the Sixers are going to keep their season alive, Tobias Harris is going to have to be better than he was in Game 5. Harris, who has been one of the best offensive players all season for Philadelphia, scored just four points on 2-11 shooting in the latest 76ers loss. Another game like that from Harris in Game 6 could make this game the last one that Philadelphia plays until next season.
On the flip side, the Hawks have struggled in the first halves of the last two games, only to come roaring back in the second half each time. In Game 5, the Hawks scored 51 points in the final 15 minutes of action to steal that pivotal contest from the 76ers. Now, the Hawks find themselves one win away from taking out a second straight Atlantic Division opponent and making it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The bench of the Hawks was a huge reason for their success in Game 5, as Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams combined for 31 points to keep the Hawks from falling too far behind. Williams was especially instrumental in the fourth quarter, making several key shots to pull the Hawks closer before they eventually took the lead for good.
In this contest, expect Atlanta to do everything they can to put Ben Simmons on the free-throw line once again. Atlanta intentionally fouled Simmons several times in Game 5 to put him on the line, where he shot just 4-14. That strategy, if used again in Game 6, could help Atlanta advance.
The Pick: Hawks +3
The Philadelphia 76ers may be the better basketball team, but they lack the mental ability to close games out in the playoffs. Atlanta, meanwhile, has been more than the sum of its parts as they have received contributions from any number of sources throughout this surprising run. Expect another meltdown by the Sixers as the Hawks will use their home crowd to their advantage en route to another victory over the Philadelphia 76ers and a conference finals appearance.