After an unexpected loss to open up the second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks at home on Sunday afternoon, the Philadelphia 76ers returned to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday to try and even the series at one.
Despite losing the first game, the Sixers put up an aggressive fight down the stretch of their first outing against Atlanta. Hawks head coach Nate McMillan said he expected the Sixers to come out with the same energy at the start of Game 2.
McMillan's suspicions were spot on. As Sixers head coach Doc Rivers left his starting lineup on the floor for a good portion of the first quarter, the Sixers got off to a hot start as they outscored the Hawks 33-20.
Tobias Harris, who checked in for exactly eight minutes, led the charge as he shot 8-for-9 from the field, totaling for 16 points. Although the Sixers got the first punch in at the beginning of the game, it wasn't a knockout as the Hawks fought back.
With a dominant effort off the bench, Hawks reserves Kevin Huerter and Danilo Gallinari combined for 20 of Atlanta's 35 second-quarter points. Meanwhile, Joel Embiid kept the Sixers ahead as he contributed to 11 points of his own.
The Sixers wouldn't lose control of the scoreboard in the first half, but an 18-point lead was cut down to two points heading into halftime. Knowing they needed to avoid a second-straight loss to open the series, the injured MVP finalist Joel Embiid took matters into his own hands in the third quarter.
Playing for all but four seconds in the third, Embiid collected 17 points off of seven field goals and eight free-throw attempts. Although Atlanta kept the race tight before the game reached the fourth quarter, the big man stayed hot -- and he got some help off the bench from the unlikely standout on Tuesday night in Shake Milton.
Ever since the playoffs started, Milton struggled on both sides of the ball and started to see his playing time diminish. As the Sixers were desperate for a spark off the bench late in Tuesday's game, the third-year guard came in and silenced his critics in the second half of Game 2.
Shooting 5-for-8 from the field, Milton collected 14 points off the bench for the Sixers in 14 minutes. Meanwhile, Embiid's 24-point half allowed him to acquire a playoff career-high of 40 points in 34 minutes. While the win didn't come easy, the Sixers put the Hawks away with a 118-102 victory on Tuesday night.
Now, they even the series 1-1 before hitting the road and facing the Hawks in Atlanta for the next two matchups where they hope to take home-court advantage back.