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Hawks stun Embiid-less 76ers in Philadelphia with 123-121 victory

Kevin Huerter and John Collins starred in the upset win for Atlanta.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

A reunion was on the schedule for the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. Atlanta head coach Lloyd Pierce spent the last five years in the City of Brotherly Love under Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown, while on the floor two of the players traded for one another over the summer were reunited with old teammates in the Hawks’ Justin Anderson and the 76ers’ Mike Muscala. Muscala made his fourth start in his new home after Joel Embiid was scratched a few minutes before game time with an ankle injury, while Anderson was the first wing off Pierce’s bench for Atlanta.

With the pleasantries out of the way early on, the two teams settled into a back-and-forth contest featuring seven lead changes and seven ties in the first quarter alone. Atlanta took a five-point lead during the first period, only to see it slip away early on in the second quarter, when Philadelphia embarked on a 10-0 run at the beginning of the quarter. The Hawks, not to be denied a run of their own, bounced back with an 8-0 run to stay within touching distance before taking a two-point deficit into the halftime locker room.

John Collins posted 12 points and six rebounds in the first half (four of them of the offensive variety), but had a tough time finishing against the Sixers inside. He made just three of his ten attempts from two-point range, but did get to the line for four free throws to help pad his total.

Muscala and Dewayne Dedmon exchanged a few threes in the first half, with Muscala finishing 3-for-5 from deep and Dedmon hitting all three of his attempts. Each guy walked into the locker room with 11 points at the break and Dedmon was able to add five rebounds and three assists to his output. For the game, he set a career high with seven assists.

Kevin Huerter put together a nice first half as well, including a jab step three-pointer over fellow 2018 draftee Landry Shamet:

The story of the first half was the inability of either team to keep hold of the ball. Atlanta committed 12 turnovers to Philadelphia’s nine, leading to an up-and-down half that featured 19 total fast break points. The 76ers live in transition under normal circumstances and the Hawks obliged them with nine live-ball turnovers in the first 24 minutes.

The Hawks continued the trend in the third quarter, but were still able to win the period by three and take a one-point lead into the fourth. Atlanta committed another five turnovers in the third, bringing their total to 17 for the game to that point. Hot shooting and four more offensive rebounds helped them on their way to a positive quarter. Young came alive for ten points on seven shooting possessions to go with three boards and an assist. Even better: he didn’t commit a single turnover in his ten third-quarter minutes.

The Hawks were able to stave off the Sixers for the first five or so minutes of the final period, but eventually J.J. Redick, who had struggled to that point, hit a triple that tied the game at 103. Kevin Huerter went on a quick run all by himself to restore the Hawks’ advantage, but that didn’t last long as Philadelphia never went away. The teams traded the lead back and forth throughout the closing moments of the game, but it was Huerter and the Hawks who were able to overcome Philadelphia late. The No. 19 overall pick in the 2018 draft put on a show in the final period, scoring 14 of his career-high 29 points when it mattered most. Huerter’s 11-for-17 shooting performance, including 5-of-8 from deep, continues the impressive beginning to his career. As a team, the Hawks put in 13 of their 19 shots in the fourth quarter, led by Huerter’s incendiary 5-for-7 showing. Atlanta couldn’t miss in the second half and cut the turnovers to “just” nine in the final 24 minutes, which helped propel them to the clutch victory over a very good 76ers team, with or without Embiid.

Alex Len had a strong game playing against the small Philadelphia backup units. For much of the game, the Sixers went with Ben Simmons at the center position, which created difficulties in matching up for the teams on both ends of the court. Len’s size and strength inside helped him on his way to nine points and six rebounds in his 13 minutes.

Atlanta was able to hurt the Sixers on the glass throughout the game, posting 15 offensive rebounds, including six from Collins, who finished the game with 25 points and nine rebounds. After Huerter’s heroics, it was Collins who won the game with a beautiful step back jumper over Muscala:

Atlanta will return home for a four-game homestand that begins Sunday against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, who blitzed the Hawks to the tune of a 144-112 victory just a week ago.