Opinion: Sixers’ win in Game 3 exposes gap young Hawks still have to close

ATLANTA — In retrospect, the contours of this Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks probably revealed themselves near the end of Game 1.

Though Atlanta desperately held on for the win, the 76ers’ frenzied fourth-quarter comeback had both unlocked some options for how they could attack the rest of the series and planted some doubt that the magic carpet the Hawks had ridden into Philadelphia was about to dump them off at the next station.

And little by little, minute by minute, ever since that moment, the fundamental truth of this matchup has come to light: The 76ers have a good bit more than the young Hawks.

More reps in the fine line you have to walk in the playoffs between physicality and over-aggressiveness. More size to throw at Trae Young and make his decisions with the ball a fraction harder. More arms to disrupt those fancy cross-court passes and post entries that came so much easier for Atlanta in the first round against the New York Knicks. More reliable secondary scoring.

Lots more.

🔔 @JoelEmbiid does it all in Game 3.

27 points
9 boards
8 dimes (#NBAPlayoffs career high)
3 blocks@sixers W

📅 Game 4 – Mon, 7:30 PM ET, TNT pic.twitter.com/JeL9NpWYvD

Philadelphia’s 127-111 win in Game 3 does not end the series, or even ensure that it won’t last a while longer. The Hawks still have a Game 4 back in State Farm Arena on Monday, and a win there would make it 2-2 and flip the pressure back on the 76ers to hold serve in Game 5.

But in terms of cutting to the heart of the matter about why the 76ers are the No. 1 seed in the East and why the young Hawks have not yet arrived, Game 4 told you all you need to know.

Atlanta was hurried and uncomfortable doing just about anything on offense and completely overmatched on the defensive end of the floor. Philadelphia got the ball where it needed to go (usually to Joel Embiid), shot opportunistically from the 3-point line (10-of-21) and never allowed the Hawks even a moment’s peace.

Just like a No. 1 seed is supposed to do.

"They pretty much did a good job of executing and really just pounding us, taking advantage of their size," Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. "We basically just couldn’t get stops. We’re not able to get stops and get out into transition to get anything easy. When their defense is set, they’re pretty good."


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