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    Ben Simmons says his free throw woes are ‘mental’

    Jun 17, 2021
    PHOTO: AP

    PHILADELPHIA — Trae Young ran off the court clapping and yapping toward the few Hawks fans that braved the Philly crowd and stuck around and were rewarded with a comeback victory for the ages.

    "I was just showing love to the ATL fans that showed up," Young said, "and we're going to need them to show up Friday for us."

    Oh yes, there will be a Game Six in the Eastern Conference semifinals, with the upstart Hawks — not top-seeded Joel Embiid and the Sixers — playing for a spot in the next round.

    "If you don't believe, you got to believe now," Hawks coach Nate McMillan said.

    How could they not? Atlanta fans can roll off a lengthy list of infamous collapses in its collective sports history.

    Here was a comeback to remember.

    Young was fouled on a 3-pointer and hit all three free throws with 1:26 left to cap a 26-point rally and send Atlanta on its way to a 109-106 victory Wednesday night in Game Five.

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    The Hawks won in Philadelphia for the second time in the series and can advance to the conference final for the first time since 2015 with a victory Friday night in Atlanta.

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    "We knew what we had to do and we had to do it in a hurry. No quit," McMillian said.

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      Young scored 39 points and added to a postseason where he has become a breakout star.

      "We keep fighting no matter what the score is. I'm proud of this team," Young said. "We have confidence in each other."

      Embiid scored 17 points in an 8-for-8 first quarter and seemingly had the Sixers on their way toward a romp with a 26-point lead in the first half. They still led 87-69 at the end of the third before they collapsed.

      Consider:

      — Embiid scored 39 points and Seth Curry had 36 and they were the only two Sixers to score a field goal in the second half.

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      — The Hawks outscored them 40-19 in the fourth on 16 of 22 shooting.

      — The Sixers still had a 97.5% chance of winning Game 5 with 4:23 remaining.

      — Had 10 of 15 turnovers in the second half.

      "We got too comfortable," guard Ben Simmons said. "We didn't play the way we should be playing."

      Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari and Young opened the fourth on a huge run against the Sixers' second unit and kept attacking once 76ers coach Doc Rivers was forced to put the starters in and save the lead.

      Gallinari hit a 3 that made it 87-76 and Embiid sprang from his cool down seat behind the basket and ran to the scorer's table to check back in the game. He instantly scored and pushed the lead back to 13.

      Didn't matter.

      The big shots kept coming for the Hawks — Williams buried a 3 that made it an 11-point game — and Young kept hitting his floaters and his fouls shots.

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      Williams and Young each scored 13 points in the fourth.

      "It'll be one of those things where I'll look back when he's a Hall of Famer, he's an established superstar in this league and I can say I was part of that process and I worked with this gentleman," Williams said.

      Simmons, along with Embiid the cornerstone for the Sixers, missed free throw after free throw much as he has for most of the postseason that sped up Atlanta's comeback.

      Young's floater brought them within two and then he leaned into a 3-pointer and was fouled by Matisse Thybulle. Young, taunted all series by Sixers fans, calmly stepped to the line and buried all three shots. And so it was, 105-104 Hawks.

      The Hawks led by 26 points in a Game One victory and won Game Four at home on Monday.


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      Gallinari scored 16 points, Williams had 15 points and John Collins had 19 points and 11 rebounds.

      "We found a hot hand in Lou and found a rotation that works and stayed with it," McMillan said. "They showed their true character."

      Simmons was 4 for 14 from the free throw line and even Embiid missed two big ones down the stretch. Simmons missed two with the Sixers up 104-96 and the Hawks came right down and scored. He is 22 for 66 from the line in the playoffs (33%).

      "When Ben makes them, we get to leave him in," Rivers said. "When he doesn't, we can't. That's just the way it is."

      Simmons said his free throw woes are "mental."

      Embiid is basically playing on one good leg as he plays through torn cartilage in his right knee. The injury got the best of him in Game Four. He couldn't get any lift in his shots — notable in a blown layup late that should have won the game — and his 0-fer in the second half left Philly wondering how hard he could go in Game Five.

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      He went hard — but it wasn't enough. And the Sixers will need to force Game Seven if they want to play at home again.

      "We'll be back here for game Seven," Rivers said. "I believe that."

      TIP-INS

      Hawks: Made 22 of 28 free throws.

      76ers: Julius Erving sat courtside and Allen Iverson rang the ceremonial bell. ... Danny Green (calf strain) wore a sleeve on his right leg and will remain sidelined for the rest of the series.

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      PHOTO: AP
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