Sixers-Hawks Game 6: ESPN’s top Philly fan thinks they’ll win; Dwight Howard defends Ben Simmons
A Sixers win tonight will force a Game 7 against the Hawks. A loss ends Philadelphia’s season.
Despite having blown two large leads, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers is confident Philadelphia can bounce back against the Hawks.
Ben Simmons is facing widespread criticism over his performance in Game 5, where he attempted just four shots.
Why the 76ers can cover
Philadelphia has arguably been the better team for a majority of this series, even while trailing 3-2. There have been some minutes of inexplicable performance, but the Sixers are talented and effective, as evidenced by their top-seeded pedigree. Philadelphia was the second-best defensive team in the NBA during the regular season, and the Sixers are holding opponents to fewer than 1.09 points per possession in the NBA Playoffs 2021. Embiid is a huge part of that success defensively, anchoring the team’s rim protection, and the All-NBA center, when healthy, also drives Philadelphia’s offense.
Embiid is averaging 32.0 points and 13.0 rebounds per game in the series and, in four of the five games, he has been utterly dominant. As a team, the 76ers are scoring 118.4 points per 100 possessions in the postseason, riding a 60.4 percent true shooting mark in the process. Atlanta improved its defense in 2020-21 when compared to previous seasons, but the Hawks still landed below league-average in overall efficiency, and they could be vulnerable in a pressure-packed spot.
Why the Hawks can cover
Atlanta is playing with house money after two comeback wins in a row. As currently constructed, the Hawks are also the deeper team, with Young headlining a group of burgeoning shot creators and play finishers that has given Philadelphia fits. The Hawks scored 40 points in the fourth quarter of Game 5, with Young and Lou Williams find ways through Philadelphia’s normally stout defense. For the season, Atlanta was well above average on the offensive end, scoring more than 1.14 points per possession.
That efficiency was bolstered by top-six marks in free-throw creation (24.2 attempts per game), free-throw accuracy (81.2 percent) and offensive rebound rate (28.4 percent). On the defensive end, Atlanta’s numbers were more modest, but the Hawks found real success whenever Clint Capela was on the floor. After a shaky first half in Game 5, Capela seemed to find his footing against Embiid, and he was the anchor of a defense that held Philadelphia without a single field goal for more than six minutes in the closing period.