26 points. That’s how far the Philadelphia 76ers were ahead in the second quarter, when Ben Simmons hit a shot to make it a 36-62 game with a minute left in the first half.
All signs pointed to a Sixers win, as they had huge nights from Joel Embiid (37 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 4 blocks, 12 of 20 from the field) and Seth Curry (36 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 13 of 19 from the field, 7 of 12 from deep).
Self-belief is a funny thing, though, and Trae Young and the young Hawks are dripping with it. After coming back from being up to 18 points down in Game 4, they never gave up in Game 5. The Sixers made it a 24-point game with two minutes left in the third quarter, and that’s where the seeds of the comeback started going into place.
The Hawks went on a small 8-2 run to close out the quarter to cut the lead to 18 heading into the fourth, and then trusted in each other as they outscored the Sixers 40-19 in the fourth quarter to complete another close 109-106 victory.
Trae Young, still in his freshman postseason campaign, had another high-scoring game with 39 points, 7 assists and 3 steals on just two turnovers. He didn’t shoot particularly well by his standards, going 10 of 23 from the field and 2 of 6 from deep, but his leadership was evident in the final stanza.
Young had two assists for the quarter, and more importantly, took over in the final 4:12 of the game by scoring 13 points to boost the efforts that his teammates made to cut the lead. The Sixers were still up 104-94 before Young scored his first basket of the quarter, but they had no answer for him down the stretch.
Yes, Embiid is injured, but there are so many questions to ask about Philadelphia’s mental toughness. They missed so many free throws, including a pair from Embiid that would have made it a one-point game with 10.9 seconds left. They also didn’t score a bucket in the last 4:12 of the game except for a meaningless shot by Curry with 0.1 seconds left.
For a team that finished first in the Eastern Conference, this kind of meltdown is inexcusable. Faced with a young team brimming with confidence, they folded for the second time in a row, and this time in front of their home fans. It was a choke job that was bad enough to cause one fan to throw something from the stands onto the court near the end of the game.
The Hawks have shown to have an indomitable spirit, and today’s performances put them in the list of the best comeback wins in NBA history. They’re now tied for fourth on that list.
Here’s how that looks.
- 31 points – LA Clippers def. Golden State Warriors (April 15, 2019)
- 29 points – Los Angeles Lakers def. Seattle Supersonics (May 4, 1989)
- 27 points – Los Angeles Clippers def. Memphis Grizzlies (April 29, 2012)
- 26 points – Cleveland Cavaliers def. Indiana Pacers (April 20, 2017)
- 26 points – Atlanta Hawks def. Philadelphia 76ers (June 16, 2021)
At this point, Young may need to be given the nickname “The Great Escape”. When you consider the type of playoffs he’s having, it’s going to be dangerous for the rest of the NBA moving forward. He already has a monumental amount of self-confidence, and this is going only going to fuel that even more.
That Hawks locker room will be a happy one, and Young will be giving props to John Collins, who finished with a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds. He’ll also be giving props to Danilo Gallinari and Lou Wiliams, who both contributed an important 16 points apiece off the bench.
Now they’re only one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals, and they get to try to close it out at home. At this point, who’s got the right to doubt them?