Young leads Hawks over Sixers in East semis series opener; Clippers oust Mavs
LOS ANGELES – Trae Young scored 35 points and the Atlanta Hawks held off a late Philadelphia rally to beat the 76ers 128-124 in Sunday’s opening game of their NBA playoff series.
At the Staples Center, the Los Angeles Clippers, powered by the 28 points of Kawhi Leonard, advanced to the Western Conference semifinals after outlasting the Dallas Mavericks, 126-111 in Game 7 of their first round series duel.
Trae, Hawks soar
Young, who averaged 29 points a game in the first round of the playoffs, pushed the visitors to a 19-point lead with eight minutes remaining only for Atlanta to struggle down the stretch and barely hang on for the victory.
The Hawks grabbed a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semi-final series with game two at Philadelphia on Tuesday.
The series winner will face Milwaukee or Brooklyn to determine a berth in next month’s NBA Finals.
Bogdan Bogdanovic and John Collins each added 21 points for the Hawks while Clint Capella added 10 points and 11 rebounds for Atlanta.
Cameroonian center Joel Embiid started for the Sixers after missing the final game of Philadelphia’s first-round series against Washington with a right knee injury.
Embiid scored a game-high 39 points with nine rebounds and four assists while Seth Curry added 21 points and Tobias Harris had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Australian guard Ben Simmons had 17 points and 10 assists.
Young, who also passed off 10 assists, scored 12 points in the first quarter as Atlanta jumped ahead 42-27 and he finished with 25 in the first half as the Hawks seized a 74-54 half-time lead.
Lou Williams, a former 76er, came off the bench to score eight points in a 17-0 Atlanta run from late in the first quarter to early in the second to give the Hawks a 53-27 advantage, the 76ers going almost six minutes without scoring.
“They hit us in the mouth to start the game,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “They were the more aggressive team. They were the more physical team. They got off to a better start.”
But the 76ers fought back late, with an 11-0 Philadelphia run, capped by consecutive Embiid layups, pulling the hosts within 118-115 with 66 seconds remaining.
Bogdanovic sank a 3-pointer with 41.3 seconds remaining for a 121-115 Hawks lead, but Ben Simmons made a free throw and Tobias Harris made a steal and layup for the 76ers.
Embiid made a breakaway foul on Collins and the Hawks’ standout added two free throws and followed with a 3-point play to give Atlanta a 126-118 edge with 16.5 seconds remaining.
“We’ll certainly be watching film on that,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said of his club’s late collapse.
“We just lost our composure in the second half. We didn’t handle their pressure well. In the second half we gave them the ball. They make you pay when you turn the ball over.
“We’re going to have to be sharper going down the stretch. We know we will have to be better in the next game because they will be more attacking than they were in the second half of this game.”
Simmons added a free throw and Embiid followed with a rebound and a 3-point play, then Danny Green made a steal and Simmons made a dunk to pull the sixers within 126-124 before Bogdanovic hit two final free throws to seal Atlanta’s triumph.
“We lost this game by allowing the other team to score 128 points,” Rivers said.
Embiid is an NBA Most Valuable Player finalist who averaged 28.5 points and 10.6 rebounds this season for the Sixers.
Leonard had 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists to lead the Clippers over Mavericks and punching their ticket to the second round of the NBA playoffs.
The Clippers captured a seventh-game showdown to win the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series 4-3 with the first home-team win of the matchup.
Los Angeles had to withstand a 46-point performance from Mavericks star Luka Doncic in the deciding contest, finally cashing in on a home court edge after the road teams had won six times, the first series in NBA history the home team had failed to win any of the first six games.
“We never gave up. We wanted to get better and we did it, especially on the defensive end,” Leonard said.
Marcus Morris scored 23 points and Paul George tallied 22 and dished out 10 assists for the fourth-seeded Clippers in front of a pandemic-limited crowd of 7,300 at Staples Center arena in downtown Los Angeles.
Next up, Jazz
The Clippers advanced to the second round to face the top-seeded Utah Jazz with game one on Tuesday in Salt Lake City.
The NBA will crown a new champion this season after the Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated on Thursday.
“It was a total team win. We wanted this moment,” said Clippers coach Tyronn Lue. “It was a great test for us on making us battle tested going into the second round. That was a great win for us.”
Doncic continued his superb play in the series despite playing with a sore neck which he hurt in game four. He added 14 assists and seven rebounds Sunday in his first game seven in just the second playoff series of his young career. The Mavericks also lost to the Clippers in the first round last season.
“We gave everything,” Doncic said. “I’m very proud of this team. Obviously I hate losing. We hate losing, but I’m proud of my team.”
Dorian Finney-Smith had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Kristaps Porzingis finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Mavericks in the loss.
Get the hottest sports news straight into your inbox
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.