Sixers vs. Hawks: Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey are the key to the Sixers’ blowout over Atlanta

After losing three out of four times to the Hawks at Wells Fargo Center last postseason, the Sixers beat Atlanta Saturday night convincingly.

In the first meeting between the teams since the second round playoff victory of the Hawks, the Sixers won with a 122-94 scoring.

Tobias Harris scored 22 points on 9-for-13 shots and snatched 11 rebounds. Joel Embiid posted 19 points and five rebounds.

Trae Young had 13 points on 5-for-16 shots and 10 assists.

Ben Simmons again missed Saturday’s match for personal reasons. Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said prior to the game that Simmons has been “engaged” during his workouts at the Sixers’ training facility, but has not recently participated in team training. Asked what factors would determine when Simmons could return to play, Rivers said he has “no idea” and is focused on the active players.

Next time for the 4-2 Sixers is a Monday night matchup with the Trail Blazers. Here are observations of their victory over the Hawks:

What a try for Maxey

Tyrese Maxey and Young each opened their scoring for their team. Atlanta’s star point guard fell into a transition float while Maxey ran in after a thump out of a theft and also lowered his own float.

The Sixers left many of their early halftime possessions until near the end of the shot, and they often made extra passes to make a mistake. However, they were good in the transition and scored seven of their first nine points on fast break. At one point, the Sixers held a 19-2 fast-break scoring edge.

“I thought the biggest thing today was not even just Tyrese’s pace, it was the advances,” Rivers said. “We kept throwing the ball forward. We showed 15 times in the last two games where if there is a guy in front, just throw The other team will make their own mistake, just with the advance pass.

“Seth (Curry) got two threes just because we pushed the ball in front; the guy went and guarded the wrong passport. That’s what it does. It puts so much pressure on your defense. And that’s something you can do all year long. It does not stop when the playoffs start. You can keep doing that – and that’s what we need to keep doing. And when we did not have it, Tyrese also pushed it up with pace. “

Young’s first quarter went badly. He started 1 for 5 from the floor, was missing a handful of floats, and also got a technical after being called for a foul on a Curry three-point attempt. The Sixers opened up a 24-11 lead on two Matisse Thybulle free throws after the third-year winger was unleashed on the backcourt by Danilo Gallinari, who was assessed for a flagrant 1 foul.

A nice stretch in the second quarter for Maxey, which included a confident three, ended prematurely as he was whistled for his third foul. He prayed for a Young pump-fake. Young, however, managed only four free throw attempts in the game.

“Just try to make it hard for him,” Maxey said of his approach. “Great player, extremely difficult to protect – double moves and moves and one-on-one. So just try to keep coming, keep chasing him and try to just defend without getting dirty.”

These games against big names are valuable experience for Maxey (16 points on 6-to-8 shooting), no matter how the Simmons saga unfolds. Progress will not always be linear – Embiid threw his hands up in frustration at a time in the third when Maxey did not properly direct the Sixers into a set – but Maxey is committed to continuing to learn and improve with reps.

No drastic dropout without Embiid

Embiid started 1 for 7 from the floor and narrowly missed on several jumpers even though he pulled five first-period free throws. He found his shot in the second, hitting three field goals in a row.

Clint Capela beat Embiid a couple of times on the offensive glass, leading Atlanta to a rebound advantage of 30-16 at the break. That the Sixers were still up 14 points despite the rebound difference indicates how well they performed in other facets of the game. The Hawks committed 10 of the first half’s 13 turnovers.

In addition to the details of this particular performance, it is positive that Embiid played long stints and was not a match-making decision. Apparently, his soreness in his right knee is not severe enough to make the 27-year-old at much less than his typical level.

The Embiid loose minutes included the match between Andre Drummond and Gorgui Dieng. Drummond had a great evening and played the veteran from Atlanta. More remarkably, the Sixers did not struggle as they played lineups with mostly second-unit players. They were even OK when Rivers turned to a group on the bench late in the third and early in the fourth period.

As he often does, Thybulle provided a couple of defensive highlights. He couldn’t help but laugh after hitting a Cam Reddish corner attempt early in the second quarter. Thybulle also blocked a reddish mid-range jumper shortly after.

“I just do not give up on the plays,” Thybulle said after a performance with four steals, three blocks. “Most of the plays I do, I feel like they end up coming from people who expect me to quit when I hit the screen or when I get out of position. It’s just the fact that “I keep chasing the ball. Good things tend to happen. Those games are really fun and it leads to great energy and usually good games at the other end.”

Georges Niang did better defensively at Gallinari than George Hill, a point guard who was forced to guard a power forward last post-season due to Rivers’ lack of confidence in any backup options behind Harris.

A comfortable enough cord

The Sixers probably will not feel that any lead is completely safe for a long time against the Hawks.

But their goal scorer in addition to Embiid made important contributions on Saturday at times when it looked like Atlanta could crawl back into the game.

Curry came up with nine points early in the third period and also made a spectator-happy transition-three. Harris responded to a 6-0 Hawks run by hitting a hard slimmer over Capela, and he ran a sharp give-and-go with Danny Green as the shot clock dropped a little later.

This is nothing new, but the Sixers are a more potent (and stable) team when Harris makes heavy shots, dampens opposition momentum and eases the burden on Embiid.

At least in terms of minutes, however, Embiid had close to a normal load as he played 30. Rivers shifted him strangely back in the match with 6:52 left and Sixers leading with 24. A Maxey layup with 5:13 left. putting the team up 27 was enough for the Rivers to take Embiid out forever.

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