Sixers do just enough to survive elimination: Game six recap

NBA: FEB 24 Magic at 76ers
PHILADELPHIA, PA – FEBRUARY 24: Philadelphia 76ers Center Joel Embiid (21) laughs with Orlando Magic Center Bismack Biyombo (11) in the second half during the game between the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers on February 24, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

It wasn’t pretty, but nobody said it had to be. The Sixers were able to come away from a crucial game six matchup with the Atlanta Hawks ready to fight another day. The 104-99 win means that game 7 will be played in front of the Philadelphia faithful and once again, the Sixers have hope. But in the meantime, they’ll have plenty of wounds to lick.

If you were hoping the Sixers would jump out of the gate to an early lead after choking a 26-point cushion in game five, then you would’ve been sorely disappointed. The game started as the last one ended – lethargically. Joel Embiid started to carry the load early, but it progressively became clear that he wasn’t at 100% and would need some help this time around.

Embiid ended the night with eight turnovers and struggled to dominate consistently in the paint. There would be flashes of that elite physicality in the way of a block here and there, but despite trying to play like it, Embiid wasn’t at full-strength.

Only making matters worse was the fact that Ben Simmons got himself into foul trouble very early on. It wasn’t as if Tobias Harris was able to find his old form either. A 24-point outing was solid, but not enough to make up for the struggles of Simmons as well. This left the weight of the world on the shoulders of Seth Curry, who for the second time in a row, made out like it was nothing. Scoring 24 points on the night, Curry drained 6 of 9 three point attempts and became the engine of the starting offense for the majority of the game.

If the Sixers were going to win this game, they’d need some help from the bench. They didn’t really get it at all with the exception of one man. It just so happens that Tyrese Maxey is a literal Energizer Bunny who in 29 minutes of play ended with 16 points and a +12 rating. At one point, the fearless rookie knocked down back-to-back threes (one of which negated thanks to Dwight Howard) and provided a sense of real intensity in a team that was lacking it in a big way.

Maxey’s growth this season has been incredible and his confidence and composure in the postseason as a rookie are beyond impressive. There’ s no real excuse not to get him more minutes in game 7, where it’s do-or-die for a Sixers team who have been slowly undoing all of their hard regular season work.

The Sixers may have survived this game, but it was sloppy. If anything, they probably played worse than they did last game, but sustained a sub-par level of play longer as opposed to starting out great and slowly falling away. The Hawks shot 41% from the field and 54% from the line. Outside of Trae Young doing Trae Young things and a brief fiery stint from Kevin Huerter, they really struggled offensively.

Had the Hawks been able to muster up a more complete performance, the 8 Embiid turnovers would’ve been punished, the play of Ben Simmons exploited, and the lack of bench production (5 points in 46 minutes outside of Maxey) laughed at. Instead, the Sixers were able to limp out of Atlanta with a performance that wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring, but just enough to get them over the line.

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done between now and Sunday night, but it all comes down to game 7 in the City of Brotherly Love. Here’s to hoping the Sixers can find all the answers to the many questions that will be asked of them.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire