The Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Sixers and Hawks heads to Atlanta for Game 3 on Friday tied at one game apiece, which means a lot rides on the outcome of this one.
A win for the Hawks and they guarantee at least a split on their home court — and perhaps more importantly guarantee that the Sixers can’t close it out at home in Game 6. A win for Philly, and they’ll really have Trae Young and Co. on the ropes, as the Hawks would suddenly find themselves facing a must-win in Game 4, because back-to-back losses on their home court would set up an elimination game in Philly.
But there’s good news for Atlanta, who was undefeated at home in their series against the Knicks and are 19-2 overall at State Farm Arena since Nate McMillan took over. Their last loss there? All the way back on April 15 to the Bucks.
Still, the Sixers, fresh off their Game 2 victory, are anywhere from 1.5- to 2-point favorites on Friday night, depending on which sportsbook you look at on Pickswise. And that’s probably for good reason, given that the Sixers have shown a counter to the Hawks best weapon by sticking either Ben Simmons or Matisse Thybulle on Young rather than Danny Green. Atlanta, meanwhile, has yet to show they have an answer for MVP runner up Joel Embiid, who is averaging 39.5 points per game so far in this series despite playing with a partially torn meniscus.
While the big man is again listed as questionable, the expectation is that he will play, especially with two days off between games. Speaking of injuries, the Hawks were hoping to get forward De’Andre Hunter back at some point this series, but the Philly product was ruled out for the postseason earlier this week after an MRI showed a new meniscus tear in his knee, a tough end to a season that never really got off the ground in the first place — he was limited to just 23 regular season games.
But the Hawks have plenty of weapons, as they’ve shown so far this series. The question will be whether or not the Sixers can stop them like they did in Game 2 — or if Atlanta’s shooters will be as hot as they were in Game 1.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on ESPN, and as always we’ll have you covered with the latest news, analysis and highlights right here in our live tracker…
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