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Sixers-Hawks Game 5: Dwight Howard says Sixers are ‘war ready’; a dying cat’s final wish: a Sixers win

Philadelphia Inquirer logo Philadelphia Inquirer 6/17/2021 Rob Tornoe, Ed Barkowitz, Damichael Cole, EJ Smith, Marc Narducci, Keith Pompey, Jonathan Tannenwald, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Sixers star Joel Embiid guarded by Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela during Game 4 Monday night. © YONG KIM / Staff Photographer Sixers star Joel Embiid guarded by Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela during Game 4 Monday night.

•What you should know

•Game 5 between the Sixers and the Atlanta Hawks will tipoff Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. on TNT. The series is tied 2-2.

•Joel Embiid is listed as questionable but is expected to play after struggling through the second half of Monday’s loss.

•Embiid was voted second-team All-NBA for the third time in four seasons.

•The cat who inspired a Sixers meme is dying. She has one final wish.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Atlanta Hawks Head Coach Nate McMillan raises his arms against the Sixers in Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals. © YONG KIM / Staff Photographer Atlanta Hawks Head Coach Nate McMillan raises his arms against the Sixers in Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals.

•Sign up for the Inquirer’s Off the Dribble newsletter for the latest Sixers news and analysis.

The cat who inspired a Sixers meme is dying. She hopes to be hoisted one last time tonight.

// Timestamp 06/16/21 5:33pm

Izzy, the grey and orange tabby who inspired the viral “raise the cat” tradition across the Sixers fanbase, will be laid to rest tomorrow, her owners have said.

About three months ago, the 14-year-old feline was diagnosed with bone cancer in the jaw. The time has come to be put to sleep, her owner said, but there is a final wish: For the 76ers to win Wednesday’s game five against the Atlanta Hawks, so she can be hoisted one last time.

Ben Simmons holding a football ball: Sixers center Joel Embiid shoots the basketball over Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela in Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference playoff semifinals. © YONG KIM / Staff Photographer Sixers center Joel Embiid shoots the basketball over Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela in Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference playoff semifinals.

“Tonight will be special,” said Dennis Grove, Izzy’s owner. “They should win, and I’ll hold her up one last time.”

a person on a court: Sixers guard Ben Simmons runs into Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young in Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference playoff semifinals. © CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer Sixers guard Ben Simmons runs into Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young in Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference playoff semifinals.

— Ellie Rushing

Ben Simmons’ costly refusal to shoot the basketball

// Timestamp 06/16/21 4:23pm

Alarming numbers told a story of a weird and wild Game 4 in Atlanta. The most significant number: Zero.

The most alarming number: 0-for-0. That was Ben Simmons’ field-goal effort in his eight fourth-quarter minutes. The team’s superstar played at 60%, but the team’s primary ballhandler showed 0% heart.

a person on a court: Dwight Howard of the SIxers after an offensive reboundand basket against the Hawks during the 2nd half of game 2 of their NBA playoff series at the Wells Fargo Center on June 8, 2021. © YONG KIM / Staff Photographer Dwight Howard of the SIxers after an offensive reboundand basket against the Hawks during the 2nd half of game 2 of their NBA playoff series at the Wells Fargo Center on June 8, 2021.

”I definitely should have been more aggressive and attacked more,” Simmons admitted afterward.

Stop us if you’ve heard this before, because you’ve heard this before:

”I just have to stay aggressive. … I was a little passive at certain times.”

That’s what Simmons said after the Sixers’ Game 4 loss in the first round to the Wizards, the game in which Embiid suffered his knee injury in the first quarter — and Simmons took just two shots in the ensuing three quarters. This led to Doc Rivers’ absurd defense of Simmons, which, of course, made them both look even worse.

— Marcus Hayes

The mysterious case of Trae Young’s injured shoulder

// Timestamp 06/16/21 3:31pm

Before Monday’s 103-100 win over the 76ers, Atlanta Hawks interim coach Nate McMillan did a double-take when he saw his star point guard Trae Young take off his warmups to reveal tape on his right shoulder.

a man holding a cat: Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young drives to the basket against Sixers guard Shake Milton and guard George Hill during the third quarter in Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference playoff semifinals on Monday, June 14, 2021 in Atlanta. © YONG KIM / Staff Photographer Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young drives to the basket against Sixers guard Shake Milton and guard George Hill during the third quarter in Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference playoff semifinals on Monday, June 14, 2021 in Atlanta.

”When he took off his warmups, it was the first I saw that,” McMillan said after the game. “I haven’t gotten a report that he has an injury there, but obviously there is something going on with his shoulder. He hasn’t complained, I haven’t gotten a report they were treating his shoulder.”

It was an interesting exchange between Young and McMillan after the interim coach saw the taped shoulder.

”He gave me a look like, ‘I didn’t know about it,’ " Young said after the game. “I told him I was fine and let’s go play, let’s go win.’”

By noon Tuesday, McMillian said he still hadn’t spoken to Young yet about his shoulder.

”I am assuming he feels pretty good,” McMillan said. “Trae is a guy who doesn’t talk much about his injuries.”

That was pretty obvious since his coach didn’t know about it.”

Doc Rivers wearing a suit and tie: Sixers fan Dennis Grove raising his cat Izzy on deck outside their North Philadelphia home on Monday. © YONG KIM / Staff Photographer Sixers fan Dennis Grove raising his cat Izzy on deck outside their North Philadelphia home on Monday.

Last night he came out, I thought early it seemed like it had an affect on his game, his shooting, his touch,” McMillan continued on Tuesday. “The second half, he was able to fight through that and find his rhythm and I haven’t had any reports, anything about Trae’s shoulder.”

Damien Williams holding a basketball: After a rough second half in Monday's loss, injured Sixers star Joel Embiid hopes to rebound in Game 5.. © YONG KIM / Staff Photographer After a rough second half in Monday's loss, injured Sixers star Joel Embiid hopes to rebound in Game 5..

— Marc Narducci

Embiid eligible to negotiate for $$$

// Timestamp 06/16/21 2:25pm

Joel Embiid is in position to get paid.

The 76ers center was voted a second-team All-NBA selection, the league announced on Tuesday. This marked the first time since 2019 and third in four seasons that Embiid achieved the honor.

However, this season has special implications.

Embiid is eligible to receive a four-year super-max extension for a projected $191 million this offseason. The extension would be added onto the additional two years he has left on this contract. Embiid would make $43.5 million during the 2023-24 season, the first year of his extension.

He would then make $46.0 million in 2024-25, $49.4 in 2025-26 and $52.8 million in 2067-27.

— Keith Pompey

Ex-Sixer Scott Brooks parts ways with Wizards

// Timestamp 06/16/21 1:15pm

Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks, a former 76ers player in the late 1980s, is out of the job.

The Washington Post and other outlets reported that Brooks and the Wizards failed to agree on a new deal, a few weeks after the Wizards were ousted from the playoffs by the Sixers.

It was the Wizards’ third playoff appearance under Brooks, and it came after the team won the Eastern Conference’s play-in tournament to clinch the No. 8 seed.

The Sixers then won the first-round playoff series four games to one.

—Jonathan Tannenwald

Kawhi Leonard out for the Clippers

// Timestamp 06/16/21 12:55pm

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard might be out for the remainder of the NBA playoffs.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Wednesday afternoon that the Clippers fear Leonard suffered an ACL injury during Monday night’s victory against the Utah Jazz, and will miss the rest of the postseason.

Clippers fear All-NBA star Kawhi Leonard has suffered an ACL injury, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. He is out indefinitely.

Earlier Wednesday, ESPN reported that Leonard will miss Game 5 tonight with a right knee injury, and that the superstar could be out for the remainder of the series.

The Clippers said Leonard suffered a right knee sprain during their Game 4 win, and that there is “no timetable for his return.”

—Rob Tornoe

Dwight Howard: ‘We war ready’

// Timestamp 06/16/21 12:43pm


Video: The Rush: Hawks erase 26-point deficit, Kawhi-less Clippers win and LeBron shreds the NBA (Yahoo! Sports)

Replay Video

Dwight Howard has a message for his 76ers’ teammates for tonight’s pivotal Game 5 Eastern Conference series meeting against the Atlanta Hawks at the Wells Fargo Center.

“We have to finish,” Howard said following this morning’s shootaround. “We have to come out. We got to dominate from the first quarter and finish the game. We can’t play around with this team. We can’t give them any life and hope.”

The best-of-seven series is tied 2-2 after Atlanta took a 103-100 Game 4 victory Monday night at State Farm Arena. Howard feels his teammates should be upset, especially Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris for getting snubbed for individual accolades. Embiid was the league MVP runner-up. Simmons was runner-up for defensive player of the year, while Harris was left off the All-Star team.

Embiid was named second-team All-NBA on Tuesday. Simmons and Harris were left off the first, second and third teams.

“In games like tonight, I would be pissed off and let everybody know: ‘Hey, I wasn’t on first-team. We’ll I’m going to be first-team tonight. I wasn’t defensive player of the year. I’m going to be defensive player of the year tonight and for the rest of the series,’” Howard, an Atlanta native and former Hawk himself, said. “I feel like we have to come out with the attitude tonight like, ‘Hey, don’t forget about the 76ers.’ We war ready.“

He feels like the Sixers dropped the ball in Game 4 and doesn’t want Atlanta to build momentum in Game 5.

”The Hawks are a very scary team when you allow them to get confidence,” he said. “When you play a team like that, you have to dominate, you have to stay on their neck.

”I’m sorry. I love those guys in Atlanta. They’re my friends away from basketball. But right now, they’re trying to end my season, and take away my trophy, our trophy. So for our team, we got to put our foot on their neck and don’t let off.”

—Keith Pompey

Here are some of your Game 5 prop bets

// Timestamp 06/16/21 11:53am

William Hill sportsbooks had the Sixers at +280 to win the Eastern Conference as of Wednesday morning. DraftKings was +230. The disparity in those odds is just one indication how precarious the conference is. Whether it’s Joel Embiid’s knee or Kyrie Irving’s ankle, there are a lot of moving parts. Atlanta at 20-1 at DraftKings is interesting.

It’s even nuttier in the West where the odds to win the conference came off the board Wednesday morning in light of The Athletic’s report that Phoenix’s Chris Paul is in COVID-19 protocol and ESPN’s report that Kawhi Leonard is not playing tonight because of a right knee sprain.

Here are some props on tonight’s Sixers-Hawks game we’re talking about at the virtual water cooler:

Joel Embiid’s points:over/under 30.5.

Analysis:Not sure how you can play the over here, but 30.5 is the consensus number at the area books. He’s officially listed as questionable, so he’ll have to play in order for there to be action. Embiid played 36 minutes in his nightmare outing two nights where almost half of his 17 points came at the free-throw line (8-for-8). He had 27 the game before.

***Ben Simmons double-double: +140.

Analysis: William Hill is offering +140 for Simmons to notch a double-double, which he’s done in five of nine playoff games this year. He had 12 rebounds with Embiid hobbled on Monday, and 10 boards when the Sixers closed out Washington when Embiid didn’t play. For those feeling particularly optimistic, William Hill has Simmons at +700 for a triple-double. PointsBet, for the same play, is +750, so shop around.

***Trae Young’s assists: over/under 10.5.

Analysis:The odds at PointsBet are just about even (-105), BetMGM’s odds are -140. Young’s assist totals for the first four games are 10, 11, 8 and 18. Just as important, his minutes totals for the first four games are 39, 38, 37 and 40. He’s always in the game and he always has the ball. Might not be bad to use this prop in a parlay.

—Ed Barkowitz

Glimmer of hope for Embiid following Game 4

// Timestamp 06/16/21 11:30am

That 4-for-20 Joel Embiid shooting disaster in Game 4 was bad, but not even the worst in Sixers postseason history.

Hal Greer shot 3-for-23 in a 1969 loss to the Celtics, and Julius Erving went from Doctor to bricklayer when he went 4-for-21 in 1985, also against the Celtics.

The lousiest shooting performance overall, minimum 20 attempts, in a playoff game actually is shared by two Hall of Famers. Karl Malone in 1997, and Bob Cousy in 1957, each clanged his way to 2-for-20.There is a glimmer of hope for Embiid: Malone exploded for 42 the next game (12-for-27 shooting) and Cousy had his nightmare in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, which his Celtics won.Of course, it doesn’t appear either was playing with torn meniscus in his knee.

— Ed Barkowitz

Podcast: The Sixers must match the Hawks’ intensity in Game 5

// Timestamp 06/16/21 10:48am

Keith Pompey says we shouldn’t be surprised by Doc Rivers’ consistently protecting his players and downplaying their flaws.

—Keith Pompey

Former Catholic League coach has an idea

// Timestamp 06/16/21 10:11am

Former Catholic League basketball coach Joe Rapczynski has an idea if Joel Embiid is again limited by his cranky right knee tonight.

I think the Sixers win tonight but everything depends on Embids health. In the event JoJo is not at his best, I'd like to see Doc Rivers reference Magic Johnson and Lakers vs Sixers and move Ben Simmons into JoJo's spot. Playoff advancement more important than individual brand. pic.twitter.com/yuPRHb4u6a

Rapczynski, 69, lives in Glen Mills and is retired but definitely not dormant. Two years ago, he wrote a fascinating book about the 1968 North Catholic JV team stunning Bishop McDevitt in a playoff game after the varsity was suspended. The game made national headlines.

Affectionately known as “Rabbi” by his former players, Rapczynski coached North to the 1987 Catholic League title. His suggestion refers to one of the more painful games in Sixers history.

The Lakers clinched the 1980 championship at the Spectrum when rookie point guard Magic Johnson was moved to center to fill in for injured star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Johnson waxed the Sixers with 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists as L.A. walked off with the title.

Even if it’s just for a couple sets tonight, running the offense through Simmons in the paint would give the Hawks something to think about. Simmons might not want to shoot beyond five feet, but he’s a superior passer and is strong enough to handle the contact.

—Ed Barkowitz

Hawks’ McMillan: ‘Our defense finally showed up’

// Timestamp 06/16/21 8:43am

Trailing 62-49 at halftime of Game 4 and already down two-games-to-one in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference series with the 76ers, the Atlanta Hawks were in a desperate situation. And in the second half of Monday’s 103-100 comeback win over the Sixers, the Hawks defense finally bailed them out.

”I thought our defense finally showed up in this series,” Hawks interim coach Nate McMillan said the day after his team evened the series heading into Wednesday’s Game 5 at the Wells Fargo Center. “I thought we did a good job of getting pressure on the ball and did a good job of keeping the ball in front of us and really forcing them to shoot over the top.”

The Sixers scored just 38 second-half points, after scoring 34 in just the second quarter. In the second half, the Sixers shot 12-for-37 (32.4%) including 4-for-16 (25%) from three-point range, while committing seven turnovers. Also in the second half, the Sixers had zero fast break points and just eight points in the paint. Joel Embiid, bothered by his knee injury, shot 0-for-12 in the second half.

The Hawks can’t expect that type of defense for 48 minutes, but for half a game it got them back into this series.

—Marc Narducci

Rivers has ‘no concern’ about Embiid, but says he won’t be the player he was

// Timestamp 06/16/21 8:20am

Sixers star Joel Embiid is once again listed as questionable for Game 5 after struggling during the second half of the team’s Game 4 loss to the Hawks.

Embiid was far from himself in Game 4. He finished with 17 points and 21 rebounds, but made just 4 of 20 shots — including missing all 12 of his second-half attempts. That marked his fourth game playing with small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee. Embiid said he didn’t have any lift while missing what would have been a go-ahead layup with 8.8 seconds left.

The MVP runner-up went to the locker room in the first quarter to get the knee examined, but returned. Embiid acknowledged that his knee was bothering him during the game.

The Sixers were fully aware that Embiid would be hampered by his knee in some way when the series started. Yet he averaged 35.3 points and shot 53.3% in the first three games. But he struggled through 25% shooting while looking out of sorts in Game 4. As has been the case all series, Embiid is listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game.

But Rivers’ level of concern has not increased because of Monday’s performance. Nor is he more concerned because there’s only one day to recover between games for the rest of the series. It would be ideal for Embiid to get a couple of days of rest in between games.

“Listen. We walk on the floor, we’re good,” Rivers said. “We wouldn’t put Joel out there [and risk further injury]. Obviously, he’s not going to be exactly what he was, with the injury. But I’ll take what we have. So I have no concern.”

— Keith Pompey

Kevin Durant’s sensational performance sends Nets to 3-2 lead over Bucks

// Timestamp 06/16/21 7:45am

Kevin Durant has always been one of the NBA’s most unstoppable scorers.

The Brooklyn Nets needed much more than points Tuesday night, so Durant gave them one of the most spectacular performances in postseason history.

Durant had 49 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists, sending the Nets back into the lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 114-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5.

Kevin Durant had a HISTORIC performance against the Bucks in Game 5 🔥

49 point triple-double in 48 minutes. pic.twitter.com/aUwBnNHcyt

“I know the perception of me is that I can score the basketball well, but any team that I’ve played on, I’ve been asked to do pretty much everything from rebounding to defending to initiating to scoring,” Durant said. “I might not do it all the time but I do a little bit of everything.”

The two-time NBA Finals MVP became the first player to have at least 45 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a playoff game.

With James Harden returning but delivering little offense and Kyrie Irving out, Durant played all 48 minutes and shot 16 for 23 from the field. The four-time scoring champion had 20 points in the fourth quarter, perhaps the biggest shot a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left and the Nets protecting a one-point lead.

— Associated Press

Odds still favor the Sixers over the Hawks

// Timestamp 06/16/21 7:15am

Despite a disappointing Game 4 loss in Atlanta on Monday, the odds still favor the Sixers in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Hawks.

Teams that won Game 5 at home of series that were tied 2-2 went on to win 100 out of 110 series (90.9%).

Teams that lost Game 5 at home of series that were tied 2-2 came back to win just 12 of 33 series (36.4%).

The Sixers entered Monday’s game down to 6-1 to win the NBA title at most sportsbooks. It was the lowest they’d been all season. They opened at 20-1, and were 8-1 at the start of the playoffs, according to SportsOddsHistory.com. After Monday’s loss, they ticked up slightly to about 7-1.

Analytics website FiveThirtyEight thinks the Sixers have a 71% chance of eliminating the Hawks and moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001. The site also thinks the Sixers have the third-best shot to win the NBA finals, tied with the Utah Jazz at 17%.

— Ed Barkowitz and Rob Tornoe

Sixers-Hawks Game 5: Start time, channel, how to watch and stream

// Timestamp 06/16/21 7:15am

The Sixers hope to rebound Wednesday after Monday’s disappointing loss to the Hawks, which left their Eastern Conference semifinals series tied 2-2.

The good news is the series moves back to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, where the Hawks would have to win at least one more game to eliminate the Sixers.

Wednesday’s Sixers-Hawks game will air on TNT starting at 7:30 p.m. Eastern (though by now we all know the game won’t actually begin at 7:30 p.m.). Brian Anderson will handle play-by-play alongside analyst Jim Jackson and reporter Stephanie Ready.

The game can also be heard locally on 97.5 The Fanatic, with Tom McGinnis calling the game solo.

Here’s everything you need to know to watch or stream Game 5 of Sixers-Hawks:

•Sixers-Hawks, Game 5 (Series tied 2-2)

•When: Wednesday, June 16

•Where:Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia

•Time: 7:30 p.m. Eastern

•TV:TNT (Brian Anderson, Jim Jackson, Stephanie Ready)

•Streaming: TNT app, B/R app (requires cable authentication)

•Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic (Tom McGinnis)

Here is the full schedule for the second round matchup between the Sixers and the Hawks:

— Rob Tornoe

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