What’s the reverse of a Gentleman’s Sweep? Whatever we call that, it is what the Philadelphia 76ers are on track to do in the second round series against the Atlanta Hawks. After losing Game 1 by four points, a couple of 16-point wins have the Sixers in position to take a 3-1 series lead in Game 4 on Monday night with a 7:30 p.m. ET tip-off.
Philadelphia is favored by 3.5 points at BetOnline Sportsbook with a total of 225.5 for Monday’s matchup, which could put the underdog Hawks on the brink of elimination against the top-seeded 76ers. Money has been pretty one-sided on the Sixers to this point.
Since being outscored 42-27 in the first quarter of Game 1, the Sixers have outscored the Hawks by 43 points. They came back to close the deficit in Game 1 before losing 128-124. Since that first quarter, the Sixers have locked down on defense and have gotten virtually whatever they’ve wanted on offense to open up a 2-1 series lead and appear to have a great chance to go up 3-1 in tonight’s game.
Philadelphia has a .617 eFG% in the series to just a .556 mark for Atlanta. The Sixers have gotten a huge series from Joel Embiid, who is playing through a meniscus injury, and have gotten good contributions from Tobias Harris and Seth Curry. Harris had a strong 22-point effort in Game 3 to really help the Sixers coast to victory. Philadelphia led by eight after the first quarter and really opened it up after halftime.
The Sixers just might be looking at a sweep tonight if they were performing better at the free throw line. They’re shooting over 55% from the floor and over 42% from three, so they’ve been great in those two areas, but Philadelphia is only 63-of-96 at the free throw line. You can blame that on Ben Simmons, who has missed 13 of 20 free throw attempts. At least Simmons has been playing good defense and leads the team with 24 assists.
Philadelphia’s defensive adjustments have been able to create some offense in transition and frustrate and fluster the Hawks. Trae Young had 35 points in Game 1 on 11-of-23 shooting, but he has only made 15 field goals over the last two games and only has 84 points for the series. Bogdan Bogdanovic has found life difficult down low, but has made 39% of his threes. The 76ers are fine with him firing from out there.
The reality of this series is that the Hawks just aren’t good enough. We’ve seen Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter have big minutes off the bench to prop up what has been some lackluster play from most of the starting lineup. The Hawks need Trae Young to be a superstar every time he takes the floor and he hasn’t been in the last two games. In fairness to him, he has gotten very little help. John Collins and Clint Capela have been in and out of foul trouble and haven’t been able to get enough touches.
Bogdan Bogdanovic has had a decent series, but he’s still only shooting 43.5% from the floor and hasn’t contributed much in the other statistical categories. Collins finally had a big effort in Game 3 with 23 points, but all that did was cancel out the 26% that Atlanta shot from three. Therein lies the problem for the Hawks in this series. The margin for error is so small taking on the Sixers. Unless they play a flawless game, they’re going to have a tough time.
For example, Clint Capela had 16 rebounds and six on the offensive glass. He only managed eight points. Those lost opportunities with putbacks and free throws have to be converted against a team like Philadelphia.
The Atlanta offense is having its share of problems, but Philadelphia also shot 58% from the field and nearly 48% from three in Game 3. That is another glaring weakness in this series for the Hawks. They have not defended well, which has lessened that aforementioned margin for error on offense.
76ers vs. Hawks Free Pick
You just get the feeling that this series is over, so long as Embiid can stay on the floor. Philadelphia is too deep and too talented. Atlanta requires so much from Young and the defense has not rotated or communicated well enough to keep Philadelphia’s offensive output manageable. The line move feels like the right side here.
Pick: Philadelphia 76ers -3.5