This series should be over already, right?
Philadelphia had an 18-point lead in Game 4 at Atlanta, yet it lost. The 76ers led by 26 points in the third quarter of Game 5 at home, but they found a way to lose.
Instead of chilling at home waiting for the winner of Game 7 between Milwaukee and Brooklyn that’s scheduled for Saturday night (more on that in B.E’s Bonus Nuggets below), Doc Rivers’s top-seeded squad is staring at elimination going into tonight’s Game 6 at sold-out State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
As of this morning, most betting shops had Philadelphia (55-27 straight up, 43-36-3 against the spread) installed as a three-point favorite with a total of 221.5. The 76ers are priced at -155 on the money line, leaving the Hawks anywhere from +125 to +135.
Most books have Philadelphia as a two-point ‘chalk’ for first-half wagers with a total of 113.5. The 76ers are 1.5-point favorites in the first quarter with a total of 56.5. Atlanta is +118 on the money line.
DraftKings has the updated series price with Atlanta listed at -177 compared to Philadelphia as a +140 underdog.
Lou Williams was the catalyst in Wednesday’s epic rally. From the start of the fourth quarter when Atlanta trailed by 22 until his 3-pointer cut the Philadelphia lead to 11 points with 6:11 remaining, Williams scored 13 points on 6-of-7 field-goal attempts and dished out a pair of assists.
Then Trae Young took over and scored 13 of his 39 points in the final six minutes. Trailing 104-102 with 1:26 left, Young used a pump fake to get his defender in the air before drawing a foul on a 3-point attempt.
Young drained all three free throws to give Atlanta the lead for good. At the other end, Tobias Harris appeared to be going in for an easy layup before John Collins rejected the shot attempt.
On Atlanta’s next possession, Danilo Gallinari hit a fadeway jumper from the post as the shot clock was about to run out to push the Hawks’ lead to three. Next, Joel Embiid was fouled but missed both free-throw attempts.
Young put the game on ice with a pair of free throws and Atlanta prevailed by a 109-106 count as a 7.5-point road underdog, hooking up money-line supporters with a payout in the +240 neighborhood.
In the Atlanta-era of the Hawks franchise history, it’s probably the biggest win…ever! Atlanta won Games 5 and 6 over Washington to advance to its only appearance in the East finals in 2016, but it was swept by LeBron and the Cavs in the next series.
The Hawks won Game 5 of the East semifinals at the old Boston Garden over Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish and Co. in 1988. However, in Game 6 back at the old Omni in Atlanta, the Hawks lost by one when Cliff Levingston missed a wild left-handed shot in the paint just before the buzzer.
Then in Game 7, Dominique Wilkins’s best career game in a 47-point effort was wasted when Bird matched ‘Nique’s fourth-quarter heroics and the Celtics won a 118-116 thriller.
In addition to his 39 points in Wednesday’s Game 5, Young had three steals and seven assists compared to two turnovers. In the postseason, Young has a 103/21 assist-to-turnover ratio. The third-year guard who was a one-and-done player for Lon Kruger at Oklahoma is averaging 29.6 points, 10.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game in this series against Philadelphia.
Collins has come alive since halftime of Game 4. He finished Game 5 with 19 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots. Collins is in a contract year and will likely get a max deal this offseason, but he’s giving the Hawks a lot of motivation to match any offer since he’s going to be a restricted free agent.
Gallinari continued to provide outstanding production off the bench, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight boards. Williams finished with 15 points, three assists, two rebounds and a pair of steals. In only 8:16 of playing time, rookie center Onyeka Okongwu had six points, five boards, one steal and one block.
Embiid had 37 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and two steals in the losing effort. Seth Curry finished with 36 points, seven boards and two steals.
However, Harris and Ben Simmons provided nothing. Harris had only four points, four rebounds and three assists in 37:41 of playing time. He went 2-of-11 on FGAs and didn’t get to the charity stripe, where Simmons was 4-of-14. Simmons had eight points, nine assists and four rebounds.
Atlanta (48-34 SU, 46-35-1 ATS) has been downright nasty at home since Feb. 21, compiling a 22-3 SU record and a 20-5 ATS mark. During this span, Nate McMillan’s club is 13-3 both SU and ATS in 16 games against teams that made the postseason, including a 32-point win over Phoenix and a victory over Milwaukee without Trae Young.
For the season, the Hawks are 28-12 SU and 26-14 ATS at home. Meanwhile, the 76ers are 22-18 SU and 18-20-2 ATS in 40 road assignments.
Tonight’s tip is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
–With the way he’s playing in these playoffs, Seth Curry has shed the ‘Steph’s little brother’ moniker. The dude has earned it.
–Philadelphia isn’t the only No. 1 seed playing in an elimination game tonight. Utah has lost three games in a row to the Clippers, who are own a 3-2 series lead after winning 119-111 as 8.5-point road underdogs in Wednesday’s Game 5 back in Salt Lake City. As of late this morning, most spots had the Jazz listed as a 1.5-point road favorite with a total of 220.
–With Kawhi Leonard out for the rest of the series and most likely the season (and perhaps a good chunk of next year?), Paul George stepped up in Game 5 with 37 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots. Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson added 25 and 22 points, respectively. Bojan Bogdanovic had 32 points the losing effort, but Donovan Mitchell was held to 21 points on 6-of-19 FGAs.
–Mitchell (ankle) and veteran point guard Mike Conley (hamstring) are both listed as ‘questionable’ tonight. Conley hasn’t played since Game 5 of the Memphis series.
–DraftKings has the Clippers as -167 favorites to advance past top-seeded Utah and into the Western Conference finals.
–Chris Paul’s status for Phoenix in the early stages of the West finals remains in question.
–After Milwaukee won and covered in last night’s home win over Brooklyn, Game 7 is set for Saturday night at 8:35 p.m. Eastern. Most books have the game listed as a pick ’em with a total of 215.5. The ‘under’ is 5-1 in the series.
–ESPN’s WOJ reported on this trade this morning between Boston and OKC:
–Brown is a 7-foot-2 center who averaged 8.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game this past season. Horford is cheaper than Walker in terms of giving the Celtics more cap flexibility. Boston’s roster is now loaded with bigs and lacking in guards, so this is undoubtedly the first of many roster moves under new GM Brad Stevens, who is still search for a new head coach to replace him in that role.