Hawks Tie Series Up At 2

After both teams have split the two game sets in one another's building, this best-of-7 series has been whittled down to a best-of-3. The Hawks took Game 4 by a score of 103-100, and evened up the series at 2 games a piece. The series will head back to Philadelphia for Game 5.

First off, let's start out by mentioning that the Sixers played pretty poorly on almost every front. Aside from Seth Curry, I don't think anyone played anywhere close to how they are capable of. As the team that forces the second most turnovers in the NBA, they only got the Hawks to cough the ball up 4 times in 48 minutes. Their biggest lead was 18, and they held a 13 point advantage at the half. A Furkan Korkmaz three with 2:44 left put Philadelphia up 4. But then the Hawks closed the game on a 9-2 run after that. So many discouraging signs throughout this game.

Joel Embiid's 0-12 second half stinker was painfully reminiscent of his 0-point performance at the hands of Marc Gasol and the Toronto Raptors last season. And that missed point blank layup under a minute left is inexcusable. It became increasingly clear to everyone watching that he is just casually playing through a relatively severe knee injury, and doing so is continuing to worsen his physical condition. Without him being as effective as he normally is, the team's offensive sets suffered. I genuinely hope it was nothing more than a bad game, and that he will bounce back and give us the easy 36 points and 14 rebounds we know he can deliver, but it's hard to ignore the possibility of him re-aggravating that meniscus injury and not being the same dominant force.

If Embiid is limited in his appearances in this series going forward, the Sixers need their two co-stars behind the big man to step up. Because last night neither Ben Simmons nor Tobias Harris was anywhere near enough. Tobias Harris had 20, but admittedly they were a very quiet 20. Simmons had a great first half, tallying 8 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. And he played Trae Young well enough to hold him to just 8 points at the break on rough shooting numbers. But in the second half he was close to non-existent, and his free throw woes continue to prove costly in a 3-point loss. The trio of Embiid, Harris and Simmons combined for 13 second half points. That is inexcusable. Especially if the team as a whole can't make one out of every three shots they put up in the second half (31.6%).

The Hawks shot 36.6% from the floor, and 30% from distance and pulled out the win. Give their defense credit, but the Sixers lack of offensive execution was the bigger story to me. The Hawks came out firing in the second half, and that was led by Trae Young, who broke his personal postseason record with 18 assists. John Collins gave them a very productive 14 pints and 12 rebounds. Bogdan Bogdanovic, although just 9-24 from the field, gave them 22 points on a night where Trae Young was just 8-26 from the field. In that second half, their offense simply outplayed the Sixers defense, and with their stars simply not showing up in the second half, their halftime lead dissolved away just 15 seconds into the final frame. From there, it was like pushing a boulder uphill. Any bit of momentum they had would soon be lost. And I do believe not having Danny Green in timeouts and in the locker room hurt them.

If Embiid is set to return "full strength" (whatever that may entail), we'll be good. Sixers in 6. But this was not a very discouraging outing. They let the Hawks back into the series.

Oh well. Back to the fortress for Game 5.

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