The Atlanta Hawks had been here before. In fact, they didn’t have to go back that far to remember the same situation, either.
In Game 5 of their series against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night, Atlanta ran a 26-point deficit as they tried to come back in the Eastern Conference Semifinals showdown.
On Monday, Atlanta fell behind by 18 before coming back to win. So why couldn’t they do it again?
“There is no rest,” Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said after his team’s 109-106 victory. “We always talk about playing a 48 minute game. It’s a long game. And tonight it took us 48 minutes to finish it.”
And as they did in Game 4, the Hawks came back for an unlikely win and took a 3-2 lead with Game 6 scheduled for Friday at home.
How unlikely was the victory? According to ESPN Stats & Info:
Philadelphia became the only team to lose a consecutive 18-point lead in playoff games in the past 25 seasons.
The 22-point deficit at halftime that the Hawks surpassed was the third-largest halftime comeback in NBA postseason history.
The 76ers were 165-0 in the past 25 seasons when they led by at least 25 points at any point in the game (regular season or Playoffs).
At one point, Philadelphia had a 99.7 percent chance of winning (the highest it got in Game 4 was 95.5%)
Atlanta trailed 24 with 2:10 left in the third quarter, but a quick 8-2 run set the tone for the great fourth quarter that followed. In the fourth quarter, Atlanta edged out Philadelphia, 40-19.
Hawks guard Trae Young, who finished with 39 points and shot 17 of 19 from the free throw line, said it is “not very difficult” to imagine the comeback with 26 points due to the weapons a team like Atlanta owns. .
“We have guys that can shoot and make 3s and really get our offense going. We can score points really fast,” Young said. “I think at the beginning we missed a lot of wide shots and it was one of those first halves again. Hopefully we will shoot much better at home. [el viernes] Than what we did tonight We always have the belief that we are in the game. “
In fact, the Hawks missed shots in the first half. Atlanta shot just 31% from the field in the first two quarters and was 3-of-12 from 3-point range. They shot a respectable 47.6% from the field in the third quarter, hitting half of their 3s, before hitting 16 of 22 from the field in the scorching fourth quarter.
For the Hawks duo of Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams, it was something they had seen before. Two seasons ago, those two were playing for the Doc Rivers-trained LA Clippers who overcame a 31-point deficit against the Golden State Warriors in the Playoffs, the biggest comeback in NBA postseason history.
“I already did it when we were 31 down. And 26 is less than 31,” Gallinari said. “I think you can do it while you believe, as long as everyone believes. That has been the main thing since the beginning of the season. When you keep believing and doing your job, incredible things can happen.”
Both played an important role in the return of the Hawks. Gallinari hit a jumper to put Atlanta up 107-104 in the final minute, while Williams kept them there.
Williams, the 16-year NBA veteran from the Atlanta area who started playing for Philadelphia in 2005, had 13 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter.
“These guys just don’t give up,” McMillan said. “They went on with what we were trying to do. We finally found a hot hand on Lou and we found a rotation that was working for us. We were starting to make stops and we just kept going.”
As jubilant as the Hawks were after the victory, the Sixers were haunted and searching for answers. Sixers coach Doc Rivers said he felt the momentum start to shift in the first half of the second half.
“Even though we held the lead, I think we lost six balls in our first 10 possessions to start the third quarter. That’s why I called for an early timeout,” Rivers said. “You could see we exhaled, relaxed. The first unit was good enough and Seth [Curry] took us on that stretch to keep the lead at 22. Where it could very easily have been at 30.
“And then obviously you have to eliminate the guys and the second group really struggled tonight in the second half. They were phenomenal in the first half and then in the second half, they had problems. And then down the stretch. Listen, We scored 19 points and I gave up 40. So it depends on us. On all of us. On me. On the players. And we have to figure out how to get back up, what we’re going to do, and bring this game back here for Game 7. “
In the past two postseason teams, Rivers-led teams are 11-5 when they hold at least a 16-point lead in a playoff game. Every other team in the NBA is 76-3 in that span.
As part of its strategy to win again, Atlanta employed the ‘Hack-a-Ben’ technique against Sixers point guard Ben Simmons. In the second and fourth quarters, Simmons was intentionally sent to the line eight times – he went 3 of 8.
It’s also not the first time the Hawks have messed with Simmons and used his free throws this series. Simmons shot 61.3% on the season, but was shooting 67.1% before the All-Star break and 53.3% after.
Following his 4-of-14 performance from the line Wednesday, Simmons is now shooting 32.8% in the Playoffs from the line.
When asked about where the nosedive came from in the latter part of the season, Simmons said, “I have no idea. But I need to get it back. It’s my responsibility.”
Joel Embiid (37 points) and Seth Curry (36 points) carried the charge offensively for Philadelphia, but no other player scored more than eight points. Embiid and Curry were the only two players to score a field goal for the Sixers in the second half and only Simmons added one in the final 31:34.
“We needed to come together more, I think,” said Furkan Korkmaz of the 76ers. “These are the playoffs. They’re taking advantage of every minute and I think that’s the point of the game. You have to watch every position. Every position matters. Every point matters.”
Tobias Harris, who carried much of his scoring streak in the first four games of the series along with Embiid, said this loss “is going to hurt.”
“But tomorrow we have to put it behind us, find a way to improve,” Harris said. “Go to Atlanta and get a win. I mean, our backs are against the wall right now and we have to play like one.”
When they arrive in Atlanta, they will meet a crowd of Hawks who will try to cheer on their fans in what would only be the franchise’s second appearance in the Conference Finals since 1970.
As the Hawks look ahead to Game 6, Young was asked if he stopped to think about what the historic comeback meant.
“Not yet. I still can’t,” Young said. “We have to finish the job. Maybe after we’ll hopefully close the next game. Then we can look back.”