The Eastern Conference Semifinals shifts to Atlanta, where the Sixers and Hawks look to break a 1-1 series tie.
Joel Embiid is questionable with his partial meniscus tear, which is likely going to be the case all series long. While weighing his potential injury, let’s look at some other key themes heading into Game 3 with the Sixers as one point road favorites.
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I broke down how I’m playing the rest of the series here, so check that out for more information, but in this game, the line feels short.
To me, this series can be segmented into two parts, the first half of Game 1, and everything since then.
Outside of that first 24 minutes in which the Hawks went up by 20, the Sixers are up by 32 points this series. Atlanta used outlier shot making and poor Doc Rivers rotations to build a considerable lead. However, in Game 2, Rivers planted his two best defenders on the Hawks high usage point guard Trae Young.
The results were very promising, Young shot 37% in Game 2 and the ball was out of his hands more. His usage rate went from 33.3 to 27.3 from Game 1 to Game 2 and the ball was with the likes of Kevin Huerter and Danilo Galinari more often.
Both of the two bench scorers had fantastic shooting nights, hitting on a combined eight of their 14 three-point attempts, but Huerter also turned the ball over four times.
The Sixers will live with that shooting as the ball is out of Young’s hands. He generates high percentage looks for his teammates and with the length of Simmons and Thybulle on him, he won't be able to make skip passes to open shooters on the wing or lobs to Clint Capela.
While it’s a positive trend for the Sixers that their defense rounded into form, the team still is incredibly reliant on Embiid and his bulky knee. He has been downright dominant through the first two games, averaging just shy of 40 points and taking 31 free throws.
Again, if Embiid sits, the game is different. He's exerting a lot of energy and dominating while he does it, but how long can he keep it up? He has a commanded a ton of attention and it has not matter. Embiid has also created cleaner driving lanes and shots for Tobias Harris and Seth Curry to get going, who combined for 43 points in Game 2.
I would wait for more clarity around Embiid, but he has been a game-time decision in Game 1 and 2, so this is becoming the standard and I still expect him to play. To be safe, I’d be willing to wait and grab a -2 before the line creeps up once Embiid is announced as good to go.
Pick: Sixers -1.5, play to -2