Atlanta vs Philadelphia 76ers NBA Game 7 Preview, Predictions, Betting Picks: Take Hawks +7

Joel EmbiidLast night, the Milwaukee Bucks won a stunner, defeating the Brooklyn Nets in overtime of game seven to book their trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Tonight, (8pm ET Sunday; TV: Live on TNT), the Bucks will find out who their opponent will be as the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks take their own series to a pivotal and deciding game seven.

Much like the Bucks/Nets series, the semifinal between the Hawks/Sixers has been full of twists and turns. It has seen nearly unbelievable collapses and dominant performances from some of the league’s best. It has also seen shortcomings, extreme physicality on the court, and as game seven rolls around, ailments and injuries have become part of the story as well. Let’s look back on the first six games to see how we got to this moment.

The Philadelphia 76ers were riding high. Having just defeated the Washington Wizards in a somewhat easy five games. The team got the best news it could: Joel Embiid, who had missed the last two games of round one with what was originally diagnosed as knee soreness, would be available for the start of the Hawks series. The Sixers ride and die with their big man so this was a huge boost for the team as they looked to host game one.

Knowing the East ran through their home court, where Philadelphia has been nearly unbeatable over the last few years, the Sixers had to feel good about this series. Then game one started and Philadelphia looked anything but the top seed in the conference. The Hawks dropped 42 on the Sixers in the first quarter and took a 20-point lead into the half. The fans at the Wells Fargo Center were silenced and the Sixers perhaps realized they underestimated their opponent. To Philly’s credit, they didn’t quit. They embraced the daunting task and almost completed the comeback, only losing by four points in the end.

Knowing they had to win game two at home, Philadelphia played like the team many had expected. Embiid dropped 40 to lead all scorers, Ben Simmons kept Trae Young in the minus area of +/-, and the team got bench contributions namely from Shake Milton, who had 14 points in 14 minutes. The Sixers won the game by 16 and momentum had clearly shifted their way. Even heading into Atlanta where the Hawks hadn’t lost in several months, the Sixers took control. With Embiid once again in the starting role, the Sixers completed another 16-point victory and seemed poised to win the series in five games yet again.

The Sixers took a 13-point lead into the half of game four, looking like they would once again have no trouble handling the Hawks. Atlanta battled back in the third leaving a virtually new ball game in the fourth. Neither team had much success shooting the ball in that final frame, especially the Sixers, who had just 18 points. The Hawks were able to do a little bit better, evening the series at two games apiece.

Then came game five, which, if Philadelphia loses tonight, will no doubt be one that is talked about for years to come. As the Sixers so often have this series, they took a significant lead into the half, this time, 22 points. Much like in game one where Philadelphia found themselves down a huge margin and didn’t quit, the Hawks followed suit. Only, they actually completed the miracle comeback, thanks in large part to huge numbers from Trae Young and a 40-point fourth quarter that left the hometown Sixers fans stunned in disbelief. The loss was devastating for many reasons, not the least of which was that their team would have to go to Atlanta to keep their championship dreams alive. Winning in Atlanta would be no easy task.

As the prospect of yet another early playoff exit crept into mind, the Sixers headed to Atlanta focused on one goal. Even though they found themselves down 12 early against the Hawks, they didn’t let that deficit, nor the ones they blew in the two prior games, affect their mentality. Despite struggles from the floor at times and officiating that didn’t seem to go their way, the Sixers won game six thanks to free throw shooting and some star performances from unlikely heroes in Tyrese Maxey and Seth Curry.

That brings us to tonight. Game seven in Philadelphia. USA oddsmakers have the Sixers as favorites to win at home, as high as -7 points. Let’s look at the keys to tonight’s game before giving our betting predictions and picks for this NBA playoffs preview.

Bogdan Bogdanovic’s Uncertain Status Looms for Hawks

There is no doubt that the Hawks are Trae Young’s team but every star needs a wingman, and Bogdan Bogdanovic is exactly that for Atlanta. However, after leaving game six with a knee injury, Bogdanovic may not even take the court in this pivotal matchup. As of this writing, the 6’6 guard, who had been Atlanta’s second leading scorer this series, is uncertain to play and if he does play, will he be at 100 percent? It is a question the Sixers face every game as it was revealed that Embiid’s knee soreness is a symptom of a small meniscus tear.

There is no doubt that injury has affected Embiid as Bogdanovic’s will likely affect him. This would be a huge loss for Atlanta as not only is Bogdanovic a good scorer for the team but he’s also someone who spaces the floor well. He is a big body who can help guard the likes of Embiid or Tobias Harris. Should Bogdanovic not play, the Hawks could be in some trouble.

What Version of Ben Simmons will the Sixers Get?

To paraphrase an old Winston Churchill quote, “Ben Simmons is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” To Sixers fans, that can be quite rewarding at times, but lately, it’s been more frustrating. With Embiid and Harris struggling in game five, Simmons seemingly disappeared. His offense is always a question mark but the all-star didn’t step up when his team needed him to.

At this point, Simmons’ woes seem to be mostly mental. He’s afraid to drive to the basket because he knows a trip to the free throw line awaits. At that very line, the baskets are anything but freebies for Simmons. Despite shooting around 60 percent in the regular season, Simmons has been abysmal this postseason. That is partly due to the Hack-A-Ben strategy that teams are starting to employ by intentionally fouling the point guard off the ball just to send him to the line. It’s a strategy that required near expert managing on Doc Rivers’ part in game six as the coach kept subbing Simmons in and out in order to avoid him going to the line. It’s not exactly a confidence builder but the Sixers didn’t have the luxury in a close game they had to win.

Simmons does a lot of things really well, like guarding one through five. But if the Sixers hope to win the NBA Championship, and maybe even just this series, they’ll need him not to be afraid to be aggressive when the situation calls for it.

Our Betting Preview’s Atlanta Hawks vs Philadelphia 76ers Game 7 Predictions’ Verdict & Picks

It all comes down to this. Two seasons are on the line. Both the Hawks and Sixers have reasons to believe they can and will win this game. Both have played well at times this series and have received huge production from star players. Both also have two guys, in Embiid and Young, who live for these moments. Embiid had an exceptional season, finishing runner-up for the MVP. The Sixers will need him to find that gear one more time tonight. Embiid wants to be the hero. Young thrives on being the villain. Sunday’s game should be interesting as these two look to take their teams in the conference finals.

As for the picks, these are the predictions for this preview:

  • The Sixers won’t lose at home again, especially with Atlanta possibly down their second-best player. However, the seven points they are favored seems a little high. So take the Hawks +7 @ best odds of -106 with BetOnline.
  • Go under 216.5 total points @ -110 with Intertops.