The Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks battled back and forth throughout Tuesday night's matchup at Wells Fargo Center as the 76ers opened up multiple large leads which, for the majority of the night, the Hawks managed to respond to with hot shooting of their own. However, in the end, the 76ers built a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter and the Hawks had run out of comebacks of their own as Philadelphia picked up a 118-102 win in Game 2.
Joel Embiid led the way for Philadelphia finishing with a career playoff-high 40 points but he had plenty of help along the way. Tobias Harris contributed 22 points after dominating the first quarter while Seth Curry caught fire from the outside and knocked down five of his six attempts from beyond the arc for 21 points of his own. On the other side, Trae Young and Danilo Gallinari led the charge offensively as each finished with a team-high 21 points but it wasn't enough to overcome the 76ers' attack.
With the win, the 76ers even the series at 1-1 as the scene is set to shift to Atlanta for Game 3 at State Farm Arena on Friday night.
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
1. Embiid makes history
Joel Embiid tore his meniscus on an awkward landing in Game 4 of the Sixers' first-round matchup with the Washington Wizards, and missed the rest of that game and the series-clinching Game 5. Coming into the second round, his status was completely up in the air, and even a few hours before Game 1 it was still unclear if he'd be able to play, or what he'd look like if he did.
The concern turned out to be short-lived. Not only has Embiid been able to play, he's dominated. Not that any team does, really, but the Hawks just have no answer for him. Clint Capela is a pretty good defensive center, but he's not strong enough to handle Embiid's power on the block, and the Hawks don't have any other true bigs that they trust.
On Tuesday night, Embiid was unstoppable. He was scoring from all over the court, knocking down jumpers and rumbling inside, where he also drew a number of fouls. Doc Rivers' decision to leave him in late in the fourth quarter after the game was already decided was a little confusing, but Embiid finished with 40 points and 13 rebounds on 13-of-25 from the field and 12-of-16 from the line.
In the process he set a new playoff career-high and became the first Sixers player to score 40 points in a playoff game since Allen Iverson. Not a bad night at the office.
2. The Shake Milton Game
Once the playoffs started, Shake Milton had largely fallen out of the rotation for the Sixers. He had played just 48 total minutes in the first six games, with many of them coming in garbage time. But late in the third quarter of Game 2, Doc Rivers decided to give him a chance. It turned out to be a brilliant decision.
After Trae Young hit a few free throws to give the Hawks their first lead of the game, Milton responded with a huge 3-pointer to put the Sixers back in front -- for good, as it turned out. Then, with time winding down at the end of the frame, Milton pulled up 35 feet and launched a three to beat the buzzer. Nothing but net.
Early in the fourth he added a few more jumpers as part of a huge Sixers run to push their lead above 20 points and put the Hawks away. Milton finished with 14 points and three rebounds in just 14 minutes of action, and the Sixers were plus-15 while he was on the floor. You'll always remember where you were for "The Shake Milton Game."
3. Sixers play much better defense on Young
The Hawks were able to steal Game 1 of this series in large part because Trae Young did whatever he wanted on the offensive end. Danny Green drew the primary assignment, but just wasn't able to do enough to bother the shifty point guard, who finished with 35 points and 10 assists.
After that game, there was plenty of conversation about why the Sixers hadn't put Ben Simmons -- a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year -- on Young. 76ers coach Doc Rivers said they were worried about Simmons getting into foul trouble, and while it's true that Young does draw a ton of fouls, that seemed like a strange excuse.
In any case, the Sixers made the switch in Game 2, and it worked wonders. Simmons even swatted one of Young's 3-point attempts in the first quarter. All told the length and size made life much more difficult for Young. Though he eventually finished with 21 points and 11 assists, he shot 6-of-16 from the field and didn't have the same type of impact that he was having early in the Hawks' playoff run.