The Sixers had a huge bounce back game tonight in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, downing the Atlanta Hawks 118-102. While the final score showed a 16 point win for a needy home team, the actual game didn’t feel that one sided. The Sixers threw the first punch, jumping out to a double digit lead in the first quarter, but the Hawks quickly answered once Doc Rivers elected to go with a bench player laden lineup in the late first and early second quarter. The Sixers held a measly 2 point lead at the half, but the back end of Game 2 was dominated by a pair of players that led Philly to tying the series at 1. The first was expected; MVP snub and All-World Center Joel Embiid dominated Atlanta, finishing with a stat line of 40 points and 13 rebounds. What Embiid has done following his knee injury against Washington has been nothing short of miraculous.
The unexpected hero, though, was Shake Milton. Milton, who came off the bench for the Sixers in Game 2, caught absolute fire, dropping 14 points in 14 minutes, just when the team needed a spark. In the first half, Philly’s bench was outscored 32-0 by Atlanta’s reserves. But thanks to Milton’s heroics in the 2nd half, the Sixers were able to extend their lead even with Embiid and company resting comfortably on the bench. Milton had been much maligned over the past couple days, following a stretch where he had contributed little to nothing to the playoff cause of his team. And yet, sometimes it is the most unlikely hero that shows up when you need someone to bail you out. Tonight, it was Shake who provided that spark off the bench in a time of need.
Defensively, the Sixers were still not at their best, but they took away Trae Young for the most part, holding him to 21 points but only 1-7 from 3 point range. It wasn’t a perfect performance on that end, but it was much improved from Game 1 and laid out a blueprint on how to hopefully neutralize the Hawks’ star guard over the remaining games in the series. The teams will face off again Friday night in Atlanta as the Sixers look to take a 2-1 series lead.