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#1 Philadelphia 76ers vs. #5 Atlanta Hawks
Game 6: Friday at 7:30 PM ET on ESPN (Atlanta leads series 3-2)
Analysis: Philadelphia has choked away each of the last two games in this series, and the Hawks now have a chance to close out the Sixers in Atlanta on Friday evening. The narratives surrounding another playoff disappointment from Doc Rivers - as well as Ben Simmons disappearing in the postseason again -have been widely touted. This is a Sixers team with a lot of talent, but one that hasn’t shown a killer instinct in big moments for a franchise that hasn’t been to the conference finals in 20 years. It’s not as if there are many players on the roster with experience facing adversity in the playoffs though, and it's indeed that top-end talent for Philly that we want to focus on when handicapping Game 6.
The Sixers weren’t themselves in Game 1 of this series, one that the young Hawks led practically the entire way. In Games 2-5, Philly also showed spurts of dominance with its starters on the floor, and the fact that the Sixers lost two of those four says more about their inability to close than anything else. And when you take a look at the scoring breakdowns in the first and fourth quarters of the last four games, it will help us to understand just how the Sixers wound up facing elimination in Atlanta on Friday night:
First quarters, Games 2-5: Sixers Lead 127-84
Fourth quarters, Games 2-5: Hawks Lead 117-96
This also supports the notion that when the game is just getting started, the pressure has yet to hit its climax, and when the Sixers starters - who are superior to Atlanta’s - are fresh, they’ve dominated. When games have gotten tighter and the expectations of being the big favorite in this series have mounted, however, then these same Sixers have folded late. You’ll notice the margin for the Hawks in their “dominant” quarter in this series, the fourth, is far smaller than Philly’s dominant quarter in this series.
It should come as no surprise that the Sixers have outscored the Hawks 575-553 overall in this series as well, despite trailing 3-2. Given that Philadelphia has choked away the last two games down the stretch, we’re not about to begin trusting Philly to cover a full game line with its season hanging in the balance. But instead, what we can do, is to trust the Sixers to continue to play like the superior team early on and bet them to cover in the first quarter. Whether they hang on or not and force a Game 7 is anybody’s guess.
Best Value Bet: Sixers First Quarter -1.5