The Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers started Game 2 on Tuesday as they ended Game 1 – with the Hawks swinging and the 76ers soaring.
Then part of Game 2 mirrored the start of Game 1 – with Atlanta pounding Philadelphia.
There were similarities and differences in the two games, but the main difference was the outcome. The Sixers tied the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 118-102 win over Atlanta, then retreated to fourth late in the third quarter.
Philadelphia’s All-Star center Joel Embiid — playing with a minor lateral meniscus tear in his right knee — dominated with a playoff career that included high 40 points and 13 rebounds. Tobias Harris added 22 points, six rebounds and four assists, Seth Curry had 21 points and the Sixers got much needed scoring off their bench and improved defense in the second half.
The Hawks reserves burned the 76ers by 2½ quarters, beating them 37-0. Then Shake Milton of Philadelphia entered the game with 2:46 left in the third quarter just before Atlanta’s took the first lead of the game, 80-79.
Milton, who played just 38 seconds into Game 1, quickly followed with a three-pointer and the Sixers never got behind. He made a 3 at the end of the third and finished with 14 points in 14 minutes.
“He prepared and he believed he would get another chance and he got it,” said Sixers coach Doc Rivers.
George Hill and Dwight Howard made important baskets and Matisse Thybulle’s defense helped keep the Hawks to just 18 points in the fourth quarter.
Trae Young led the Hawks with 21 points and 11 assists. Off the bench, Danilo Gallinari scored 21 points and Kevin Huerter had 20. Atlanta also had 17 turnovers, giving Philadelphia in 28 points.
“Every time we got close, we just turned the ball around or gave away a basket,” said Hawks coach Nate McMillan. “We didn’t really do a good job all night checking or building our defense.”
As the series moves to Atlanta for Games 3 and 4, the Hawks have made it clear that they can make games competitive. The big question: can they win one or two games at home and threaten to upset the top league in the East?
“I think it was good that we came here and played a game,” Young said. “Obviously they have a really good team on their floor. Getting at least one game was something we wanted to do.”
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.