Going into Friday night's Game 6 battle against the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers weren't sure if they were going to get another game to play this season. As they dropped the two games prior to Friday's matchup, the Sixers had their backs against the wall in Atlanta as they trailed 2-3.
Through the first half of Game 6, the Sixers looked rough. Trailing by as much as 12 points during the action, the Sixers never possessed a single lead through the first 24 minutes of the game. Sixers starting guard Ben Simmons specifically struggled as he landed himself in foul trouble early.
Simmons was off the floor in five minutes in the first quarter as he picked up two fouls. He finished the first half playing just eight minutes as he had three fouls attached to him before heading into halftime.
While Simmons' Game 6 performance was more on the forgettable side for the three-time All-Star, the Sixers managed to make it out of Atlanta with a gritty 104-99 victory over the Hawks, tying the series up at three and forcing a Game 7. Now, the 76ers return home to Philly, where Simmons will participate in his first Game 7 on the Sixers' home-court in front of his own fans.
“I’m looking forward to it," Simmons said following Game 6. "I look forward to every game. This is gonna be special because we’re at home. Obviously, we’re gonna have our fans there and their energy on top, so it’s gonna be great. I’m looking forward to it.”
The last time the Sixers played at home, they dominated the Hawks in the first half. With a lead as high as 26 points, the Sixers seemed well on their way to gain a series lead over Atlanta. But a monster second-half from the Hawks flipped the script.
Philly seemed down and out after taking on such a disappointing loss, but now Simmons and his team view it all as just part of the postseason process as they head into a critical do-or-die game in Philly on Sunday.
“We believe in each other and this team," Simmons explained. "We put a lot of work in to be where we are. So, this is the road to the championship, and you know it’s not gonna be easy, as I said before. There’s a lot of downs, a lot of ups, and it’s all a part of it.”
The Sixers and the Hawks will meet for the seventh and final time in this series on Sunday night. Whoever wins advances to the Eastern Conference Finals. The loser packs their bags officially and heads home for the summer.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.