Five takeaways from the Sixers big Game 2 win over the Hawks
1.) Doc made the smart decision and put Simmons on Trae
One of the biggest mistakes made in game one’s loss was Doc Rivers’ decision to put Danny Green on Trae Young for the entire first half. Before Game 2, I, along with many members of Philly sports media, implored Doc to switch DPOY finalist Ben Simmons onto him full-time. Thankfully, Rivers made the switch, and boy, did it work wonders. While Trae Young did finish with 21 points, his shooting percentages really displayed Ben’s impact on Young offensively.
Trae shot a lackluster 6-for-16 from the field, including an abysmal 1-7 from three-point range. While Trae will always find ways to get open off of pick and roll action, it is obvious there is a stark difference in his offensive output when Green guards him versus Simmons. What will make Trae Young’s life even tougher in this series is that even when Simmons comes out, Matisse Thybulle comes in to guard him. Thybulle played 24 minutes in Game 2 and spent almost all of that time guarding Young, and even managed to block him twice in the contest.
The fact of the matter is Doc made the correct adjustment defensively, and now that the Sixers have it figured out, Trae Young will have a much harder time scoring in this series.
2.) The Shake Milton we all know and love has returned
There’s no denying Shake Milton had been the most disappointing Sixer in the playoffs until Game 2. Milton came into Tuesday’s game, averaging just above three points a game in the postseason. With the emergence of Tyrese Maxey, Shake only saw 38 seconds of action in game one against the Hawks, where he didn’t record a single point. Everyone in Philadelphia knows that Shake has a takeover factor in him, and it was truly just a matter of time until he broke out of his slump.
As Milton checked into the game late in the third quarter, it was time for the true Shake to re-emerge. The Hawks had just taken the lead for the first time up 80-79 with two minutes left in the third. Shake hit a nice step-back within seconds of checking in into a three that would put the Sixers back up. He made sure to let the home crowd know he was back at the end of the quarter when he nailed another triple from what seemed like Broad Street to put the Sixers up seven going into the fourth.
Milton would play a huge part in Philly’s 14-0 run that put the game out of reach for Atlanta in the fourth. Shake finished the night with 14 points in 14 minutes of action while shooting a crazy 4-of-5 from deep. The Sixers bench has certainly been struggling as of late, so to see Shake seemingly back in form should be huge for the series.
3.) The Hawks bench is DEEP
This is the second game we’ve seen the Hawks bench come in and cause serious issues for the Sixers. Two Hawks players finished with 20 or more points off the bench tonight in Gallinari and Huerter. Both guys played major roles in keeping Atlanta in the game despite huge runs from the Sixers starters early. As I’ve detailed before, the Hawks are deep in shooters that aren’t afraid to pass up threes for their teammates or drives to the basket.
Combined, Huerter and Gallinari knocked down an astounding 8-14 from deep in game two. On top of those two lethal scorers, you also have a proven veteran guard in Lou Williams coming off the bench to help anchor a very young group. While he hasn’t contributed a ton on the stat sheet yet, there’s no denying the impact his presence has on the court managing the bench guys in offensive sets. The biggest battle outside of guarding Trae Young in this series will be containing the Hawks bench when Sixers starters are getting their rest.
4.) Keep going to the paint, Sixers
While it is certainly nice to have legitimate shooters surrounding Ben and Joel, this team’s offensive set should always focus on getting good shots in the paint. When you have an MVP-caliber center on your team, the game plan should always run through him posting up and getting buckets on the paint. Then when double teams come, you kick out to those shooters who now have an open look. It is a prototypical inside-out offense, and it all starts with points in the paint.
In Tuesday’s win, the Sixers had 52 points in the paint. In fact, the first 14 points for the Sixers came from inside the paint. It wasn’t just Joel going on a scoring tear either, as the buckets came from Tobias isolation post-ups and Simmons cuts to the basket for dunks as well. When your starting lineup has three guys over 6-foot-8, there is no reason not to be an unstoppable scoring machine in the paint, and that’s what helped propel the Sixers to a game two win.
5.) The Sixers need to stop leaving points at the line
Early in the postseason, this was just a Ben Simmons issue, but now the team as a whole needs to be better at the charity stripe. In Game 1, the Sixers as a team missed eleven free throws in a four-point loss. On Tuesday as a team, the Sixers missed a combined eight free throws, with Ben only attempting two shots from the stripe for the game. I will keep harping on this because it is such a simple but important part of the game.
If the Sixers truly want to compete for a championship, they need to do the little things almost perfectly. There will be close games, not only against a potential ECF opponent in the Nets but even in this series against the Hawks, where a few missed free throws could decide the game.
Mandatory Credit: Charles Fox.