By Michael Donovan
Sixers star center Joel Embiid was described as “questionable” before last night’s game in Atlanta with an ankle.
He answered all questions against the Hawks and the Sixers are now 3-0.
He scored 36 points, including the winning free throws with 5.3 seconds left, and the 76ers took a 105-103 victory.
Embiid made 12 of 19 shots from the field — including a couple of 3-pointers — and knocked down all 10 of his free throws. He also had 13 rebounds, five assists and three steals.
“He was our crown jewel in a blatant way,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “We needed him, particularly offensively.”
The Hawks tied the game at 103 with 7.4 seconds left when John Collins tipped in a missed free throw by Trea Young to complete a de facto three-point play after the Atlanta guard made his first attempt from the line. The 76ers had fouled Young before he could attempt a tying 3, but the Hawks wound up getting the points they needed when Al Horford failed to block out Collins, who flexed both arms on his way back down the court.
After a timeout, Horford made up for his mistake by lobbing a pass to Embiid breaking loose in the lane. Collins fouled the 76ers big man to deny the basket, but Embiid calmly drained both free throws.
The Hawks had one final chance, getting the ball to 42-year-old Vince Carter sprinting along the sideline. He threw up a wild 3 that never really had a chance, bouncing over the backboard as the horn sounded.
Tobias Harris had eight of his 13 points in the final quarter as the 76ers outscored the Hawks 15-5 over the final five minutes. Josh Richardson chipped in with 14 points, and Ben Simmons also had 14.
“We have a lot of weapons,” Embiid insisted.
Young, the first Eastern Conference player of the week this season, had 25 points on 7-of-20 shooting. Collins added 16 points and De’Andre Hunter 14, including a 3 from the corner that gave the Hawks a 98-90 lead.
Young averaged 38.5 points in Atlanta’s first two games. He was held to six over the final two quarters by the 76ers.
“They were denying me the ball,” he said. “They got it out of my hands the whole game.”
The 76ers made sure Young didn’t get a chance on that final play.
“I had two defenders on me,” he said. “I couldn’t get open.”