Free Picks: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Atlanta Hawks, 2021 Eastern Conference Playoffs Round 2

Alex Murray
Alex Murray
NBA Free Picks – Best Bets of the Week
76ers vs Hawks - 2021 NBA Playoffs Semi finals
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Atlanta Hawks, Hawks wins series 4-3

The top-seeded Philadelphia 76res needed to win Game 6 just to force a Game 7 at home against the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks, but despite that resilience in the penultimate game, it was the youthful Hawks that came out and triumphed in the seventh and final matchup by a score of 103-96.

Series Results: Hawks wins series 4-3

The Philadelphia 76ers were never going to be coming out at full strength during this series after their top player and 2021 NBA MVP runner-up Joel Embiid had suffered a partially torn meniscus in the first round that would hinder the big seven-footer throughout this gruelling seven-game duel against the upstart Atlanta Hawks.

Embiid still put up big-time numbers, but in the final few games of the series, most if not all of that production came in the first two or three quarters, as the Cameroonian joined teammate Ben Simmons in going invisible late in crunch time during this second-round series. Simmons didn’t even attempt a single shot in the fourth quarter of the final four games, and Embiid was hitting two buckets a game in the final 12 minutes on very poor efficiency.

Simmons’ lack of confidence in his own offensive ability and the yips that dropped him from a 61 percent free throw shooter in the regular season to a 34 percent clip during these playoffs. Simmons will no doubt be calling up one of the many great shooters, such as Reggie Miller, who have offered to help him improve his shooting form and mindset. If he can get a jump shot, Simmons could be the best player in the league, but that’s a big if.

Meanwhile, the youthful Hawks, who average about 25 years of age, continue their Cinderella Story, winning yet another close game where they came from behind to win late in the tilt. Interim head coach Nate MacMillan has been a revelation in turning this ship around, and he deserves an immense amount of credit.

But don’t forget about those Trae Young sidekicks that came up big in this series. John Collins was bringing energy and physicality all series-long, Danilo Gallinari was draining timely shots, and Kevin Huerter was simply hitting everything, and it doesn’t seem like the youngster with the fiery noggin is going to slow down anytime soon.

The Hawks had a great run, and it would be awesome to see them defeat the Milwaukee Bucks in the Conference Finals, but considering the level of health and confidence the Bucks have emerged with after that battle against the mighty Brooklyn Nets, it would be a shocking development. The obvious NBA pick is the Bucks, but a more amusing NBA prediction could be the Hawks if you’re just out to have some fun.

Game 1

June 6, 01:00p.m., Wells Fargo Center

(Playoff Betting Record: 23-19, +2.88)

And you know, sometimes, you’re just wrong, and that’s exactly what me and many others were about that series: wrong. Because not only were the Atlanta Hawks too much to handle on the offensive end for arguably the best defense in the association this season, but they also held their own very nicely on the less glamorous end of the floor. Not to mention the fact that they won twice in Madison Square Garden in front of some really raucous crowds.

Hawks budding superstar Trae Young can finally get some real credit now after winning his first playoff series, and you can bet your bottom dollar that the youngster is still buzzing from the way he put the Knickerbockers to bed on their own home court. He is living in every New York basketball fan’s head right now, and you can be sure he ain’t paying no New York rent to stay there either.

But apart from Young’s impressive performance in that first round victory, there is still a lot more to be excited about when you’re discussing this young Atlanta squad. First off, their interim head coach, Nate MacMillan, has been an absolute godsend for this team since taking the reins a few months ago.

When MacMillan stepped into the head coaching role, the Hawks were 14-20 and quickly falling out of the playoff picture. After he took over, the Hawks went 26-12 to finish the season strong and snag that extremely valuable fifth seed that would help them avoid one of the Eastern Conference’s big three in the first round.

Then, he matched wits with another NBA Coach of the Year candidate, Tom Thibodeau, in a playoff series where the Hawks did not have home court advantage. MacMillan’s squad not only poured it on the Knicks on offense but again, they matched the Knicks’ defensive intensity and were arguably better on that end of the floor as well, which almost always speaks to great coaching.

That ability to matchup with one of the top defenses in the league is one of the reasons we like Atlanta to win Game 1 straight up as our NBA pick for this contest. But that supporting cast behind Trae is also a big factor in our decision to make the Hawks our top pick on Sunday as well.

Bogdan Bogdanovic’s return has been a huge boost to Atlanta on the offensive end, and his length hasn’t hurt him when defending the perimeter either. He’s still getting back into a rhythm after missing an extended period with an injury, which means he’s only going to get better from here. Atlanta’s rookie, DeAndre Hunter, is in the same boat, so when these two do finally get back up to their regular standards, look out.

Atlanta’s also got some other solid sharpshooters such as Kevin Huerter and Danilo Gallinari, not to mention the veteran Lou Williams continuing to shine in his familiar role as sixth man. John Collins also got a lot better as that series against the Knicks wore on, and center Clint Capela has been solid on defense and working the glass so far in this postseason.

On the other side, the Philadelphia 76ers will have a ton of trouble keeping up with this Hawks team on the offensive end without their best player and NBA MVP candidate, Joel Embiid. An MRI revealed a small meniscus tear in Embiid’s knee, and considering he couldn’t get into live action work at Sixers practice on Saturday, he seems likely to miss his second straight game of these playoffs on Sunday.

Seth Curry came out and put up a career-high 30 points to help Philly escape the first round without Embiid, but how many more of those performances can we expect from him? Ben Simmons is a solid player on both ends, but his lack of shooting has come to the forefront over the past week, so how that part of his game responds on Sunday will be a big factor in this contest.

It’s tough to have success in the NBA when you build your squad around an elite talent, only to have that talent go down at the most crucial part of the season. Philly head coach Doc Rivers is simply picking up the pieces and seeing which ones fit well without Embiid in the picture, and I doubt he’ll figure enough out by Sunday afternoon to get the Game 1 win.

We’re expecting the Hawks to grasp the gravity of this situation and ensure they take full advantage of the Sixers while their best player is sidelined. With that in mind, we’re going with a straight up moneyline play for Atlanta, taking them to win at lovely +122 NBA odds as one of our best bets for today.

BET ON ATLANTA HAWKS TO WIN (+122 odds, 22Bet)

Game 2 (Hawks leads series 1-0)

June 8, 07:30 p.m., Wells Fargo Center

(Playoff Betting Record: 26-19, +5.92)

The fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks came out in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal against the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in Philly on Sunday afternoon and smacked them right in the mouth early doors, just like they did to the Knicks in Madison Square Garden a couple of weeks ago.

The young Hawks actually did even better in Round 2, hanging 47 on the East’s best team in the first quarter and following that up with a 32-point second quarter that saw their lead balloon to 20 points going into halftime. The Hawks’ advantage grew up to 26 points eventually, and at one point Philly head coach Doc Rivers even put a full bench squad out there.

The Hawks allowed them to stay close for most of the third quarter before all hell broke loose in the final frame of this thriller. It seemed like the run-responder, Hawks superstar point guard Trae Young, had an answer for every mini-run the Sixers could put together, but after the Hawks pushed the lead back up to 17, the Sixers made their move. And boy, what a move it was.

Joel Embiid and Seth Curry combined for 14 points during a 16-2 stretch that brought the Sixers to within three points, at which point Bogdan Bogdanovic woke back up and drained a killer three-ball with about 40 seconds left after the Hawks had just given up a five-second violation the play before. Bogie was only able to get the shot off thanks to an insane backcourt violation save by Kevin Huerter.

The Hawks then intentionally fouled Ben Simmons, who continues to be abysmal from the charity stripe. Simmons hit one, and that was followed by more full court press from Philly, which forced Young into a turnover that resulted in a quick Tobias Harris layup. On the next inbound it looked as though the Hawks were trapped again until Huerter made an amazing bounce pass down the center of the court to find a streaking John Collins.

Embiid committed a clear path foul to stop the open layup, so Collins hit both of his free throws, and then after failing to draw a foul on the ensuing Atlanta possession, Young ad-libbed and instead tossed a picture perfect lob, which was finished by Collins for an and-one that he converted to make it an eight-point game 16.5 seconds left. Game over, right?

Wrong. The Hawks fouled Simmons again, who hit the first one, then hit front rim on the second, which was scooped up and put in by Embiid with an added (and bone-headed) foul by Clint Capela. Embiid converted, the Hawks inbounded horribly, Bogie fumbled it, and Simmons snagged it for an easy dunk to make it a two-point game.

They again had trouble getting it in, but eventually succeeded in getting it to Bogie, who got fouled this time and then calmly hit both of his free throws to finally seal this game for the Hawks. What a rollercoaster, right? At least we know what Hawks head coach Nate MacMillan will be working on between Game 1 and 2: inbounds plays and beating the press.

Because apart from those issues, the Hawks looked unstoppable against the top seed in the East. However, I doubt that they will look that unstoppable again in Game 2, even if they do make those adjustments. They hit 20 triples at a 43 percent clip in Game 1, and that seems like an impossible number to replicate, which is why we like Philly for our NBA pick in Game 2.

The Hawks might be without DeAndre Hunter again, and Solomon Hill won’t be hitting multiple three-pointers in two straight games, so that’s already a positive for the Sixers right there. Expect the Hawks’ sharpshooting to return back down to the mean precipitously on Tuesday night, which should help us find success on our top picks.

Embiid is going to be compromised for the rest of the postseason with that small meniscus tear, and as someone who has played with that exact injury, what he said postgame is right on the money: you can do mostly everything, all it depends on is pain management. So unless there’s an freak aggravation, I wouldn’t expect Embiid to miss anymore games, which spells trouble for Atlanta.

Young will be able to get all the floaters he wants with Embiid conserving energy for the offensive end (where he had 39 points in the loss) but the decider will be whether or not the young Hawks can continue to get their open three-point looks to drop. We wouldn’t expect Danny Green, Tobias Harris, and Tyrese Maxey to go a combined 1-for-10 from long range again either.

With Embiid not at 100 percent, it would seem like we might have a tighter series than most would have thought originally, and I agree. However, he will know that his team can’t go down 0-2 heading to Atlanta, so this Game 2 has become a must-win, and therefore we like a Philly -5.5 NBA point spread at solid-106 NBA odds as one of our best bets for today.


Game 3 (Series tied 1-1)

June 11, 07:30p.m,  State Farm Arena

(Playoff Betting Record: 29-21, +6.92)

For what it’s worth, me and my NBA pick for Game 3 are leaning towards the negative on that question. They’re just too inexperienced a team not to show it more often, like they did in Game 1 when they nearly had a collapse of historic proportions.

The young Hawks, who average 25.7 years of age, did show some impressive playoff mettle in Game 2, coming back from down 21 in the first half to take a one-point lead in the third quarter. The 76ers had kept the Hawks from finding success in the paint and around the rim in the first quarter, which is why they led 33-20 after 12 minutes, but in the second quarter they relaxed a bit and Trae Young, Clint Capela, and company had a field day.

They scored 23 of their 35 points in the second in or around the paint or at the charity stripe, which is usually a recipe for success in the NBA. They continued to attack the basket and get to the rim and the free throw line in the third frame, eventually taking the lead away from the Sixers on a couple of Young free throws with just over two minutes left in the quarter.

Just before those free throws, Philly head coach Doc Rivers had trotted Shake Milton out onto the court, recognizing that his team needed a big influx of shotmaking if they were going to stem the bleeding. Milton had shot just 33 percent from the field in 9.8 minutes per game in the first round, and he got in for just one minute in Game 1 against the Hawks.

But the veteran stayed ready, and that preparedness shone like a diamond for the Sixers in Game 2 as Shake took over the game. First, he got his team the lead back with a deep 30-foot triple, and then he hit a 36-footer at the third quarter buzzer to put his team up seven. He came out even more scorching in the fourth: he hit Dwight Howard for a lob, then drained a long jumper, then two more very deep three-balls, the second of which put the team up 19.

People love to talk smack about guys that are specifically great one-on-one hoopers capable of getting their own shot regardless of what their teammates are doing, but in the playoffs they can be crucial in getting your team out of a shooting rut. Milton did just that, going 5-for-8 from the field and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc for 14 points in 14 minutes.

I don’t expect Shake to have that much of an impact again in this series, but he doesn’t have to—he already did his job and served as the catalyst for a Game 2 win. It will be up to other supporting cast members to come out and play above their expectations.

Tobias Harris and Seth Curry have been reliable and efficient scorers during these playoffs alongside the juggernaut that is Joel Embiid, so it’s the rest of the team that will make the difference during the rest of this series. Ben Simmons continues to play solid defense on Young, but he simply needs to contribute more than four points.

Expect Simmons to be playing with a chip on his shoulder on Friday night after losing the Defensive Player of the Year award to Utah’s Rudy Gobert on Wednesday. He will be putting a ton of pressure on Young and he will be much more aggressive getting into the paint and finding his spot on the offensive end.

And speaking of guys who will be mad about losing out on an award, how about Embiid? The big Cameroonian lost the MVP race to Denver’s Nikola Jokic and will undoubtedly be looking to prove the voters wrong on Friday night. A 50-piece from Embiid is definitely very much in the realm of possibility for Game 3.

Danny Green has been on a shocking run from downtown of late as well, and while he is prone to those kinds of low points, he always comes back with at least one scorching display to make up for it. He seems primed for one of those performances in Atlanta over the weekend, which would be a huge boost for Philly and have us laughing all the way to the bank with our top pick.

Atlanta’s rookie forward DeAndre Hunter has also been announced as out for the remainder of the season as he undergoes surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus. That’s a big blow for the Hawks, and his absence will be exacerbated when Kevin Huerter comes back down to earth after shooting nearly 75 percent from the floor in the first two games.

Embiid seems to have made his peace with his injury, and it’s clear from his demeanor during and after Game 2 that the seven-footer is thinking championship or bust this year. We like the Sixers to continue down that road in Game 3 as they cover a -2.5 NBA point spread, which is offering surprisingly high +105 NBA odds, making it one of our best bets for today.


Game 4 (76ers leads series 2-1)

June 14, 07:30 p.m., State Farm Arena

(Playoff Betting Record: 32-23, +8.03)

Game 3 of this best of seven series started out as a good-looking back-and-forth affair, with the Atlanta Hawks taking an early 11-8 lead before the Philadelphia 76ers went on a 13-3 run near the end of the first quarter that gave them a lead they would not relinquish for the remainder of the contest.

The Hawks kept it semi-competitive going into halftime down just five, but the Sixers would soon bust the game wide open as Joel Embiid was able to make the proper adjustments to Atlanta’s more aggressive defensive gameplan for him, deftly passing out of double-teams to his comrades, who were all hitting shots. The only guy on Philly’s roster not to shoot 50 percent or better was veteran reserve guard George Hill, who went 1-for-3.

Ben Simmons was particularly good on the offensive end, contributing 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field, 11 of which came in that third frame where the Sixers pulled away for good, helped on by a 22-9 run in the middle of the quarter. Simmons even went 4-for-8 from the free throw line, which is awful for most but actually an improvement for the Australian.

The aggressiveness Simmons showed in Game 3 was a very welcome sight for the Sixers, especially during this contest where the Hawks were so keen on not letting Embiid beat them. Simmons knows his strengths, and he was taking full advantage of them on Friday night, as all seven of his field goals came in the painted area.

I’d expect to see Simmons keep his foot on the pedal as long as Atlanta continues their dedicated doubling of Embiid every time down the floor. And if he has success, it usually means his team is doing the same: Philly is 3-1 during the postseason and 16-4 during the regular season when the big point guard scores 15+ points in a game where Embiid also plays.

Those are some impressive trends, which means that if Simmons keeps his head down and continues to attack, the Hawks will be in tough, which is why we like the Sixers in Game 4 for our NBA pick on Monday night. Atlanta head coach Nate MacMillan obviously tried to switch things up by putting a ton of added pressure on Embiid, but it did not pay the dividends he was hoping for.

Embiid still had an efficient 27 points and he also added eight assists as all of his teammates shot the lights out in State Farm Arena on Friday night. Doc Rivers’ team shot 58 percent from the field and 48 percent from beyond the arc in Game 3, which seems a feat that is unlikely to be replicated.

But if you take a closer look, you see that the Sixers were shooting 61 percent on open or very open shots in Game 3, which was likely a product of all the double teams Atlanta was throwing at Embiid, thereby leaving everyone else open with quality looks all night long. Rives and the boys have shown they can win when Embiid dominates, and they can win when he defers to his talented supporting cast, which is another reason we like them with our top pick.

While Atlanta’s budding superstar, Trae Young, has been scoring efficiently, he hasn’t been shooting the ball a ton, as the Philly defense has often either forced him to give up the ball or denied it to him altogether. The former Sooner was averaging over 22 shots a night in the first six games of the postseason (a stretch where the Hawks went 5-1) but has been putting up just 16.5 shots over the past two contests, both losses to the Sixers.

With all of the length and athleticism the Sixers are boasting on the perimeter with Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle, it’s going to be tough for Young nearly every time down the floor. Rivers wants to make the rest of Young’s team beat him, and now that Kevin Huerter has come back down to earth, it seems like it may be the right play.

Danilo Gallinari and Huerter had been going off over the first couple of games of this series, but they went just 1-for-9 from deep in Game 3. The absence of DeAndre Hunter is certainly being felt by the Hawks as well after the rookie played such a key role in beating the New York Knicks in the first round.

The series remains in Atlanta, but I doubt the home team will be able to come up with a win in their building before they’re knocked out of these playoffs. We like the Sixers to cover a -4.5 NBA point spread at awesome +106 NBA odds as one of our best bets for today. The Sixers to win this series in five games would also be a good shout.



Game 5 (series tied 2-2)

June 16, 09:30 p.m., Wells Fargo Center

(Playoff Betting Record: 34-25, +7.99)

The Philadelphia 76ers seemed like they were going to leave Georgia with a pair of wins against the home team when they went up 18 points with a couple of minutes left in the first half of Game 4. The lead would rest at 13 once halftime came around, but when they came out of the break, it was all downhill for Doc Rivers’ group.

Philly’s Joel Embiid—who just recently finished second in MVP voting behind the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic—was in the locker room for an extended period coming out of the halftime break, and when he did return to the game about halfway through the third quarter, he simply did not look like the same guy who had dominated the opposition so thoroughly through the first three and a half games of this series.

The Hawks were all over the Sixers in the third frame, taking it by a score of 31-20 and cutting the Philadelphia lead all the way down to just two points heading into the final quarter. 15 seconds into that final frame Bogdan Bogdanovic nailed a triple to give Atlanta it’s first lead since early in the first quarter, though they would not hold it for long.

The fourth quarter of this tilt was what playoff basketball is all about as both teams battled one another for 12 minutes in which neither side built a lead larger than a meager four points and there were a whopping seven lead changes. It seemed like whenever one side was scoring, so was the other, and whenever one team was getting stops, their opponent was doing the same.

Shake Milton was once again crucial for the Sixers down the stretch, scoring eight straight points at the start of the fourth to keep his team’s head above water and even give them a four-point lead a few minutes into the frame. That’s when both teams locked in defensively, as the game went without a single point for over three full minutes after Milton’s basket with 9:16 left.

Of course, it was Atlanta’s polarizing and talented point guard Trae Young who broke the stalemate, putting in one of his patented floaters with just over six minutes remaining to spark a 6-0 run for his team. However, after three Philly free throws and a very deep triple from Furkan Korkmaz, the Hawks were once again down four.

The young team did not panic, however, and they responded by going on a 9-2 run of their own to close out the game and tie this series up. It’s worth noting that these Hawks are now 11-1 in games decided by five points or less since Nate MacMillan was promoted to interim head coach in March. Meanwhile, his counterpart in Philly, Rivers, is just 8-7 in such games this year.

The 76ers will be kicking themselves that they weren’t able to put in the effort and energy to hold onto their lead and go back home with a chance to finish the series off. Considering Embiid’s knee in Game 4 was clearly the worst it’s been since he picked up the injury, the team surely would’ve liked to avoid having to play more games.

Unfortunately, they will have to play at least two more games now, and how Embiid deals with the pesky meniscus tear in his right knee moving forward is anyone’s guess. The big Cameroonian had an easy layup attempt in the final ten seconds of the game to take the lead, but completely bottled it. After the game, Embiid said that he couldn’t get

as much lift on the attempt as he normally would, saying that usually he would just dunk that and maybe get himself an and-one.

That was not the case on Monday night, and his team lost a close one after he went 0-for-12 from the field in the second half. The loss is not only on Embiid’s shoulders, as the team was blown out of the water in every hustle stat you can think of during Game 4.

Atlanta put up a whopping 21 second chance points (nine for Philly), nine points on the fastbreak (five for Philly), and the youngsters also beat up on the Sixers in the paint, winning the battle there 40-34. The 76ers are the more talented team, as evidenced by how well the supporting cast has been shooting the ball over the past few games, and that’s why we like them with our NBA pick for Game 5.

We’re going to wager that Embiid will get the proper treatment and come out stronger than he was in Game 4 and either dominate the game in one-on-one situations or by passing out of doubles when the Hawks bring them. The Sixers have a big number, but playing in front of the home crowd we feel good about their -6.5 NBA point spread at solid –105 NBA odds as one of our best bets for today.


Game 6 (Hawks leads series 3-2)

June 18, 07:30 p.m., State Farm Arena

(Playoff Betting Record: 35-27, +7.49)


The Philadelphia 76ers went into Game 4 with a 3-1 series lead on their mind, which would have set up a possible closeout game for them at home for Game 5. They took an 18-point lead into the third quarter of that game, but they were unable to hold on as the Hawks made an impressive comeback in front of their home crowd to tie the series up at two games apiece.

2021 NBA MVP runner-up Joel Embiid did nothing to help his team’s cause in the second half of that game, failing to hit even one field goal during the whole 24 minutes. When Game 5 came around at home in the City of Brotherly Love, one would have expected the favorites to come out swinging—and that’s exactly what they did.

The Sixers were dominating the Hawks through three quarters, but as we know, these games go for four full quarters, and Philly completely collapsed in the final frame. The Sixers were leading by 22 at halftime and still had a pretty solid 18-point advantage heading into the last 12 minutes of the game, but apparently, that’s all Doc Rivers’ side had left in the tank on Wednesday.

The Hawks came out on a 7-0 run to start the fourth, and shortly thereafter, Sweet Lou Williams made his presence in this series known. The veteran guard and NBA record three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner has been quiet pretty much ever since he was dealt to Atlanta from the Los Angeles Clippers at the trade deadline. At that point in time, the Hawks were still climbing back up into playoff contention and Sweet Lou was contemplating retirement.

But his support system convinced him to stay laced up, and Williams joined the Hawks—with whom he had played a previous stint from 2012 to 2014—eager to help a young team improve. Surely he didn’t expect this squad to come within one win of the Eastern Conference Finals. But thanks in large part to the 34-year-old, that’s exactly where the Hawks find themselves.

With Philly’s lead at 15 a few minutes into the fourth quarter, Williams took the game by the horns, scoring 11 straight points to bring his team to within single digits with just over five minutes left. After a pair of made free throws by Ben Simmons made it a 10 point game again with about four and a half minutes remaining, the Sixers went completely silent.

They did not score again until a meaningless jumper from Seth Curry with 0.1 seconds left as the Hawks finished the game on a 15-1 run that was at once amazing for Atlanta and at once an absolute shambles for the Sixers. If it weren’t for those two collapses, this series would be over and the Sixers would have booked their ticket to the next round already.

But alas, their three best players (Simmons, Embiid, and Tobias Harris) combined to go 1-for-15 from the field during the fourth quarters of these last two losses. That one bucket came from Embiid early in the fourth quarter of Game 5, and Simmons hasn’t even attempted a field goal in the fourth quarter over the past two games.

These were epic-level collapses by Rivers and the boys, and I simply have to believe that a player of Embiid’s caliber—he still had 37 points on Wednesday night—will get this at least to a seventh game. Wasting a 36-point explosion from Seth Curry in Game 5 wasn’t ideal either, but in fairness to the elder Curry brother, he’s starting to shoot more and more like his brother Steph with every passing game, which is a big factor in our NBA pick here.

Williams’ big night will probably be his final major contribution to the series, and we wouldn’t expect John Collins and Danilo Gallinari to go 6-for-8 from deep again either. Surely, Rvers and his staff will convene to figure out a way to limit Trae Young’s impact at the foul line as well, as the young phenom went 17-for-19 from the charity stripe in Game 5.

Harris is all set for a bounce back game on Friday night after going 2-for-11 from the field in Game 5, and if they can get any sort of improvement from Simmons on the offensive end in terms of finishing his shots in the paint and avoiding the free throw line it would be a big boost. Simmons may not have a jump shot, but he is a premier finisher in the paint, so if he can get his touch in there, Philly should be alright.

And, of course, all of that is on top of another 35-40 point effort from the hobbled Embiid, who has not let his knee issue sap his production or impact on games at all so far in this series. We like the Sixers to bounce back and send this series to a seventh game back in Philly while covering a -3.5 NBA point spread at solid -108 NBA odds, which serves as one of our best bets for today.


Game 7 (series tied 3-3)

June 20, 08:00 p.m., Wells Fargo Center

(Playoff Betting Record: 36-29, +6.42)

Early on in Game 6 it seemed as though the Atlanta Hawks had come with the necessary heat to put the Philadelphia 76ers away and complete the biggest upset of these playoffs so far. The Hawks were playing at home in Georgia and the crowd was as raucous as ever, which could partially explain the way Trae Young and company came out of the gates.

They began the game in an ideal manner, jumping out to a 20-8 lead in the opening minutes of the game. They would maintain the lead throughout the first half, though the advantage did fluctuate a fair amount through those opening 24 minutes. Heading into halftime and coming out in the third quarter, it was a whole different ball game as the Sixers went on a crucial 19-3 run across the final minute of the second quarter and first few of the third.

Perhaps unsurprisingly at this point, the Sixers were buoyed by a big-time shooting performance by Seth Curry, who continues to do his best Steph Curry impression. The elder Curry followed up his playoff career-high 36-point night in Game 5 with another efficient performance, contributing 24 points on 57 percent shooting, including a 6-for-9 mark from deep.

Curry has been basically unstoppable from beyond the arc during this series. Against the Washington Wizards in round one, Curry was shooting just under 32 percent from long range, but against the Hawks he’s been shooting that thang at a 59 percent clip from downtown and averaging 21.8 points and 4.7 triples a night through six games.

Some may say that is unsustainable, and sure, 60 percent from deep probably won’t last much longer, but Curry was still one of the most efficient sharpshooters in the NBA this year, nailing his three-balls at a 45 percent clip during the regular season. His emergence as a third or perhaps second reliable scoring option behind Joel Embiid has been crucial, and he’s one of the reasons we like Philly for our NBA pick in Game 7.

Another reason we like the Sixers in Game 7 with our top pick is the fact that it’s a home game, and while they have gone just 1-2 at home in this series against the Hawks, during the regular season they were the third-best home team, going 33-9 at the Wells Fargo Center. They also swept the Wizards at home in the first round, winning all three matchups in Philly.

Embiid actually had a pretty rough night in Game 6, committing a whopping eight turnovers (the rest of the team had just three) and shooting 9-for-24 from the field. He did, however, do some great work on the boards, polishing off that offensive glass nicely to the tune of seven offensive rebounds to go with six of the defensive variety.

Ben Simmons was once again a liability on the offensive end, going 2-for-6 from the field and contributing just five dimes. Tobias Harris played a lot better, however, bouncing back from a Game 5 nightmare to pour in 24 points of his own on solid shooting. And just like they got Shake Milton to come in and provide a spark off the bench in a couple of games earlier in this series, Philly head coach Doc Rivers got rookie Tyrese Maxey to do that job in Game 6.

Maxey played 29 minutes to Simmons’ 25 as the latter dealt with foul trouble and being removed for offensive possessions late in the game. But still, the rook earned his minutes just the same, chipping in 16 points and seven rebounds while pacing the game with a +12 plus/minus.

Furkan Korkmaz is another guy capable of stepping in like that, so I’m not too worried about the lack of contribution from Simmons for Sunday night’s tilt. What should be worrying for the Hawks is the fact that Bogdan Bogdanovic left the game with 10 minutes left due to right knee soreness and did not return. Not being able to reenter the game considering how tight it was is definitely worrisome.

If Bogie can’t go it would be a huge blow to a Hawks team already playing without rookie DeAndre Hunter. Trae Young put up 39 in the loss, but his team has the most success when he doesn’t have to handle such a big chunk of the scoring load, and without Bogdanovic in there, it will be even more of a weight to bear for Ice Trae.

The Sixers have more depth, so we like them to escape from this wild series with a win in Game 7 at home on Sunday. Though we’re not super excited about the spread, there’s nothing we can do considering we like the Sixers to win, so we’re going with a -7.5 NBA point spread at solid -102 NBA odds as one of our best bets for today.


Alex is an alumnus of Ryerson University's RTA Sport Media program, a contributing NHL, NBA, and MLB writer in the team. He has been writing on sports, betting, and fantasy contests for several years, including pitstops as an NFL Editor for theScore and as one of the lead NBA news writers for fantasy sports site FantasyPros. As a lifelong athlete, bettor, and sports fan, Alex is uniquely qualified to help you reach the sports betting success that you've always dreamed of and your wife never believed you could achieve.