The Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers started Game 2 on Tuesday the way they ended Game 1 — with the Hawks flailing and the 76ers surging.
Then, a portion of Game 2 mirrored the start of Game 1 — with Atlanta thumping Philadelphia.
There were similarities and differences in the two games, but the main difference was the outcome. The Sixers evened the Eastern Conference semifinal series with a 118-102 victory over Atlanta, pulling away late in the third quarter through the fourth.
Philadelphia’s All-Star center Joel Embiid — playing with a small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee — dominated with a playoff-career high 40 points and 13 rebounds. Tobias Harris added 22 points, six rebounds and four assists, Seth Curry had 21 points, and the Sixers received much-needed scoring from their bench and improved defense in the second half.
The Hawks’ reserves torched the 76ers through 2½ quarters, outscoring them 37-0. Then, Philadelphia’s Shake Milton entered the game with 2:46 left in the third quarter just before Atlanta’s took its first lead of the game at 80-79.
Milton, who played just 38 seconds in Game 1, quickly followed with a 3-pointer, and the Sixers never trailed again. He made a 3 at the end of the third and finished with 14 points in 14 minutes.
“He prepared himself, and he believed he would get another shot and he got it,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “
George Hill and Dwight Howard made important baskets, and Matisse Thybulle’s defense helped hold the Hawks to just 18 points in the fourth quarter.
Trae Young led the Hawks with 21 points and 11 assists. Off the bench, Danilo Gallinari scored 21 points and Kevin Huerter had 20. Atlanta also had 17 turnovers, which Philadelphia turned into 28 points.
“Whenever we got close we just turned the ball over or gave up a basket,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “We didn’t really do a good job of controlling or establishing our defense all night long.”
As the series moves to Atlanta for Games 3 and 4, the Hawks have made it clear they can make games competitive. The big question: Can they win a game, or two, at home and threaten to upset the top seed in the East?
“I think it was good we came out here and got a game,” Young said. “Obviously, they’re a really good team on their floor. Getting at least one game was something we wanted to do.”
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.