3 storylines as Sixers look to snap Hawks’ long home winning streak originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The Sixers’ second-round series has shifted to Atlanta, where the Hawks are 19-2 overall since interim head coach Nate McMillan took over. They haven’t lost at State Farm Arena since April 15.
Joel Embiid (small right lateral meniscus tear) was again officially listed as questionable on Thursday night’s injury report.
Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter is out for the season with a right lateral meniscus tear. Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness) and Brandon Goodwin (respiratory condition) are also sidelined.
Sixers Pregame Live will begin at 7 p.m. on NBCSP, with tip-off at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN. Sixers Pregame Live will be on NBCSP following the game.
Here are three storylines to watch for Game 3:
Any way to stop Joel Embiid?
Embiid has 79 points in the series on 46 field-goal attempts.
The Hawks seemed to believe Clint Capela could handle him, but that matchup hasn’t gone their way thus far. Embiid got Capela, the sixth-place Defensive Player of the Year finisher, in foul trouble early during Game 2. John Collins had foul problems as well, picking up his sixth with 1:38 remaining.
One imagines Atlanta will throw something different at Embiid (assuming he plays), whether it’s occasionally fronting the post, more consistent double teams or another schematic wrinkle. Embiid can’t beat the Hawks on his own, but Atlanta likely won’t win this series if Embiid scores nearly 40 points per game very efficiently.
Will Hawks get hot again from long distance?
After making 10 fewer three-pointers than the Hawks in Game 1, the Sixers had a 12-11 edge in that department for Game 2.
However, the Sixers were a bit fortunate that the Hawks missed some shots they normally convert. Following a 12-for-24 performance on wide-open threes in Game 1, Atlanta was 2 for 12 on wide-open long-range attempts Tuesday. The Sixers knocked down 8 of 14 wide-open Game 2 threes.
Seth Curry was 5 for 6 beyond the arc in Game 2 and is 13 for 21 over his last three games. He’s been good for the Sixers in ways other than shooting, too, including as a ball handler and passer. During these playoffs, Curry has 19 assists and three turnovers.
Danny Green has missed 12 of his last 14 three-point tries, though Sixers head coach Doc Rivers isn’t concerned by a few subpar shooting games.
“We don’t worry about it. … I still give him that liberty, that freedom, because at the end of the day, that’s what he does,” Rivers said Thursday. “I don’t worry about shooters missing shots. I really don’t. The odds are they’re going to start making them at some point.”
Positive signs with the turnover battle
Rivers identified turnovers as the ultimate reason why the Sixers lost Game 1. His team gave the ball away 12 times within the opening 14 minutes.
The Sixers’ turnover advantage was a significant factor in their Game 2 victory. They forced 18 Atlanta turnovers, which led to 28 points. The Sixers only committed nine turnovers and scored 20 of the game’s 29 fast-break points.
Three of the Sixers’ 10 best games this season in terms of turnover percentage have been against the Hawks, per Cleaning the Glass.
Their late-April wins over Atlanta aren’t worthy of much analysis given the Hawks were missing key players. Still, the Hawks were 29th this year in opponents’ turnover percentage and the Sixers have mostly taken care of the ball against them, which seems to bode well.