|Moneyline||-122 / +104|
|Time||Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Thursday and via DraftKings|
The first two games of this series have been all about runs. In Game 1, the Hawks came out swinging and got an early lead. Philly did everything they could to come back, but their second-half run would not be enough. In Game 2, Philly started strong and Atlanta would fight back in the second. However, the second half would be all Sixers, leading to their 16-point victory.
For the Hawks, their shooting has been what has ignited their runs. In the three-quarters Atlanta’s won, they have shot 17-for-30 from deep. In the five quarters they lost, Atlanta shot just 14-for-47 from behind the arc.
For the Sixers, it has been their ability to control the ball that leads them to success. In the five quarters Philly won, they have just nine turnovers, in the three quarters they lost, they have 19.
Game 3 will be determined by Atlanta’s shooting and Philly’s ability to protect the ball. Let’s look further to see who will have the edge.
76ers Are Tough To Beat With Embiid On Court
The story for Philadelphia in the postseason has been the difference Joel Embiid makes when he is on the court. Per Basketball-Reference, the Sixers have a +25.2 Net Rating with Embiid on the court and -3.3 without him. The most impressive part is the efficiency with which he is dominating.
In the playoffs, his shooting split is 59/43/86. There is no area on the court you can force him, and if you get too close he can blow by you off the dribble. The Sixers will need Embiid to continue playing dominantly to win Game 3 and regain home-court advantage.
Alongside Embiid’s dominance has been impressive performances by Seth Curry. Through the first two games, Curry has been Philly’s second-leading scorer, averaging 21.0 points and shooting 66.7% from 3. These numbers have been fantastic, but expecting him to maintain this all series is a stretch. If/When he begins to cool down, Philly will need to find someone else to fill in for his scoring.
While Curry and Embiid have taken care of the scoring, Ben Simmons has been tasked with leading the defense. Against Atlanta, this mostly means doing everything he can to slow down Trae Young. Simmons finished second in this year’s Defensive Player of the Year race, and it is showing. The first half of Game 1 was not pretty, but since then Simmons has held Young to nine-of-26 shooting and one for 11 from 3. Simmons stopping Young will be crucial for the Sixers especially in Atlanta.
Pressure Is On Hawks To Defend Home Court
In Game 2, the trouble for Hawks was that their best players failed to show up. In the regular season, Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic and John Collins were the Hawks’ leaders in points per game. In Game 2, they combined for 43 points but shot 37% from the field and 21% from 3. Atlanta had already stolen home court in Game 1, so there was much less urgency for Game 2. Now that they are defending their home court though, the pressure is back on, and Atlanta will need better performances from their best.
While their starters stunk up the joint, the Hawks bench did everything they could to keep it close. Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter were the leaders of the bench-run late in the first quarter and into the second. They ended the first half with 30 points combined on six of nine from 3.
The Hawks lost the bench battle in the second half thanks to Shake Milton’s red-hot shooting. Milton’s shooting gave Philly a large enough lead that Atlanta would not be able to recover. If Atlanta hopes to maintain control of this series, the bench will need to help their starters by consistently outplaying the Sixers when Embiid’s off the floor.
Defensively, Atlanta needs to do a much better job of slowing Philly’s secondary scoring options. They have thrown everything at Embiid, and he has found an answer every time. What is unacceptable though is allowing players like Seth Curry and Milton to have excellent games. Atlanta is allowing a 53.8% field goal percentage and 40.0% 3-point percentage in this series. Hopefully, playing at home brings a spark to the defense, and they make life harder for the Sixers role players.
After their horrendous start in Game 1, Philly has managed to turn things around and has looked like the better team the past six quarters. The main reason for that is the play of Joel Embiid who has shown there is no stopping him. The attention he has drawn has opened opportunities for secondary scorers to get good clean looks, and they have taken advantage.
The Hawks players have not been able to do the same though. Trae Young has similarly demanded the attention of multiple Sixers, but his support has not produced the same success. Bogdan Bogdanovic has been the player of note falling short of expectations. From April through the end of the regular season, the Hawks looked like they were going to have a deadly pair in the backcourt, but Bogdanovic has fallen short in the playoffs.
This is a big game for Philly as they need to win one of the next two to regain home court. Their defense-first mindset should travel well, and Embiid can set the tone offensively. They will need to limit Atlanta’s runs to limit the impact of the crowd, but they should be up for the challenge. The public looks to have the same sentiment as me with 63% of the money and 67% of the bets on Philly.
Back Philly to win and regain control of the series.
Pick: Philly -1 to -2.5
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