Young Goes Off, Comeback Falls Short, More from Game 1 Loss
After a week of wondering about Joel Embiid’s status, the All-Star center was a go in Game 1.
Unfortunately for the Sixers, so was Trae Young.
The star guard was nearly unstoppable as the Hawks stole Game 1 of the best-of-seven series, 128-124, at the Wells Fargo Center Sunday afternoon. Down as many as 26, the Sixers were able to get it within two. It just seemed like Atlanta had an answer any time it got close.
Here are observations from the loss.
Trae Young is Balling
If you don’t watch the Hawks on a semi-regular basis, you may not realize how great Young is. It should be fairly obvious after Game 1.
Doc Rivers started the game with Danny Green on Young and played drop coverage with Joel Embiid. That did not work out well as Young poured in 25 points and dished out seven assists in the first half.
Rivers wanting to preserve Ben Simmons both from an energy and foul standpoint is fair. Unfortunately, that allowed the game to get out of hand in a hurry. Embiid began cheating up a little more on the pick-and-rolls with Young. It helped a little, but Young nailed a couple of ridiculous long-range threes to close the first half.
As a team, the Hawks shot 13 of 23 (56.5 percent) from three in the first half and finished 20 of 47 for the game. Young was able to pick apart the Sixers’ defense and Rivers didn’t seem to make any adjustments early on.
Rivers did move Simmons onto Young and Simmons picked up two quick fouls. The second one was tough as it appeared Young had hooked Simmons’ arm. The Sixers’ bigs showed higher on Young’s pick-and-rolls and somewhat slowed him down.
In the guts of the game, they started aggressively doubling Young which allowed them to make it close. Going forward, this may be what the Sixers have to do.
Young finished with 35 points and 10 assists. He is going to be a problem in this series.
The Sixers could’ve used more from Green offensively as well. The veteran went 0 of 4 from three.
Turnovers and All-bench Lineup
The Sixers’ offense generated good looks in the first half – when they got the chance to shoot the basketball. Turnovers were a huge issue to start the game. Nine first-quarter turnovers gave Young and the Hawks more opportunities and Atlanta cashed in.
Every possession matters in the postseason and the Sixers didn’t play that way. It’s going to be hard enough to contain Young in this series. You can’t give him extra possessions on top of it. They turned the ball over 19 times in the game.
The other big thing that hurt the Sixers is the all-bench lineup stint in the second quarter. Those lineups had very mixed results all season long and Rivers made it seem like they’d be a thing of the past when the postseason came. That hasn’t been the case.
That lineup was a minus-14 and allowed the Hawks to go on a 17-0 run. If the deficit hadn’t gotten to 20, the Sixers would have had a real chance to come back. They came close, but that all-bench run hurt.
The All-Star Duo
Not only did Embiid play with a small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee, but he looked like his All-Star self for most of the game. He had a pretty vicious dunk in the first quarter that ended with an emphatic celebration. The knee didn’t seem to hinder him in any way until late in the fourth quarter. He limped a little after a defensive possession but stayed in the game.
His performance was one of few positive takeaways from a Game 1 loss. The MVP finalist finished with 39 points and nine rebounds.
Simmons was solid (17 points, 10 assists and four rebounds), but again, free throws continued to be an issue. Simmons went just 3 of 10. The Sixers got the deficit to within six and the Hawks went Hack-a-Ben with under a minute left. In that scenario, Simmons went 1 of 4.
As a team, the Sixers were just 24 of 35 (69 percent) from the line.