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Between Joel Embiid’s knee, Trae Young’s banged-up shoulder and Ben Simmons’ bruised psyche, the Eastern Conference semifinals have become a survival of the fittest situation.

Right now, Atlanta is winning the battle.

Following an incredible turnaround after falling behind by as many as 26 points, the Hawks find themselves in the driver’s seat in terms of pulling an upset of the top-seeded 76ers. Embiid was brilliant in the opening half of Game 5 as Philadelphia built an incredible 62-40 lead, only to get caught from behind. Only two 76ers players made field goals in the second half and a 25-point lead with 8:30 left in the game ended up being sliced down methodically before ultimately evaporating late as Philadelphia couldn’t put the ball in the basket.

The Hawks won the fourth quarter 40-19 and triumphed 109-106, putting themselves in position to reach the Eastern Conference finals for just the second time ever since moving from St. Louis, last doing so in 2015. If Atlanta can win its 15th home game in 16 outings on Friday night, it will advance past the 76ers in a massive upset.

Currently, Atlanta is a -162 favorite to advance according to the latest updated series price at DraftKings. If you still believe the 76ers are going to come up victorious by pulling off a road win as a 3-point favorite on Friday and then handling business at home over the weekend, you can earn a profit of +130 if they come through in consecutive contests.

The last two games in this series have gone under the posted total, so the number has come down to a series-low 222.5.

Only Embiid and Curry managed field goals in the second half, which is the first time in NBA history that only two players have scored. Meanwhile, Young has managed to remain successful despite his shoulder trouble, dishing out 18 assists in Game 4’s comeback win and scoring 39 points to fuel Wednesday’s revival.

The Hawks won despite second-leading scorer Bogdan Bogdanovic fouling out and scoring just six points in 21 minutes and key reserve Kevin Huerter winding up scoreless, so there’s no question that Nate McMillan’s team can play better. Clint Capela has had his hands full with Embiid and simply hasn’t been as effective in this series as he typically is but John Collins has really stepped over the last two wins and is making himself some money since he’s entering free agency.

Full Sportsbook Odds For Sixers Vs. Hawks

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Philadelphia is incredibly fragile at the moment and isn’t playing like the East’s overall No. 1 seed. Embiid’s knee issue, as we saw in Game 4, can flare up at any moment. He shot 0-for-12 down the stretch to contribute to that meltdown but was dominant in Game 5, making nine of his first 11 shots and ultimately winding up with 37 points. Seth Curry, who has been the 76ers top player all series, finished with a career-high 36 points.

Tobias Harris, who had been solid all series, incredibly finished with just four points despite playing 38 minutes. Simmons scored eight points and was the victim of the hack-a-Ben strategy starting in the second quarter. His inability to hit free throws has clearly infiltrated his confidence and has affected every part of his game. He’s shooting less than 30 percent from the stripe, making key reserve Dwight Howard look like Steve Nash by comparison.

That’s really the dilemma here. Do you trust a 76ers team that has now crumbled in consecutive contests, coughing up huge leads? Can you lay points on the road against a team that has been tremendous in its arena over the past few weeks given that Simmons will be out there for his defense and play-making come fourth quarter but can be picked on for his lack of free-throw shooting? Is it smart to trust that Embiid’s knee will hold up if you’re making a futures bet on Philadelphia advancing or betting Game 6 pre-flop since there’s always a chance he won’t feel right after warming up due to that slight tear in his meniscus?

At this point, it’s looking far more likely that the Hawks are going to advance in the series and the 76ers are going to have a long summer of staring in the mirror with some hard decisions ahead.

About the Author
Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national writer for nearly two decades, covering NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and other outlets. Tony joined Gaming Today's team of sports betting writers in 2020.

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