Joel Embiid returned to action from a knee injury, but the Philadelphia 76ers couldn’t recover from a 26-point deficit and lost Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series at home after falling to a score of 128-124. against the Atlanta Hawks.
Playing for the first time in six days since he suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee in Game 4 of the Sixers’ first-round series against the Washington Wizards, Embiid was the leading scorer in the first semifinal game with 39 points by hitting 12 of 21 shots at the rim (14 of 15 free throws) with nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
“Playing with a torn meniscus is not easy. All I have to do is keep handling (the injury), do my best, have all the treatment I can, try to handle it to make sure it doesn’t get too swollen, ”the Sixers star said after the game. “Obviously, the pain will continue. It’s normal, but it’s all about managing it and doing whatever it takes to win.
“My goal is to win the championship. I’m going to push my body to the limit to make sure that happens. I’m going to give everything I have ”, he added.
The Hawks, led by Trae Young’s 35 points, had everything going for it from the start. They led by 15 points in the first quarter and had their biggest lead after Bogdan Bogdanovic’s 3-pointer with 9:22 left in the second quarter, when they nearly doubled the Sixers in points with a score of 53-27.
Young had 25 points and seven assists at halftime for the second time in his career, after doing so on January 30, 2020, also against Philadelphia, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
However, the Sixers, with the first seed in the East, gave war at the end of the game.
The Sixers started an 11-0 rally with 2:12 left in the fourth quarter to get within three points with 1:01 left and closed the gap to two units with a Ben Simmons dunk with 10.5 seconds before for the Hawks to clinch the win with a pair of free throws from Bogdanovic.
“Up to the last five minutes, things were going pretty good,” Atlanta guard Kevin Huerter said. “Thank God we went up for 20. (We committed) too many turnovers.”
Embiid scored six of 11 points from that rally, but Sixers coach Doc Rivers was not calm about keeping his injured center on the floor as the game closed, bringing Embiid’s time on the floor up. at 38 minutes.
“I can adjust to any style of play. We just played Washington and I played fast. (The Hawks) were physical, they play fast, (but) I can adjust. They are the Playoffs ”, emphasized Embiid. “You can’t worry about how many minutes someone is supposed to play. You have to play with your best elements ”.
Though he appeared to twist his knee as he fell to the ground late in the game after chasing after John Collins to foul him, Embiid said he will continue to do his best.
“As long as I’m good to go out, I’m going to do my best and push myself until I can’t, but while I’m on the floor, I’m going to play hard, I’m going to throw myself for the balls, I’m going to do whatever it takes to win.” stressed.
Embiid scored 11 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter, while the Sixers outscored Atlanta 41-29 in the fourth quarter while forcing six of the Hawks’ 17 turnovers.