2021 Playoffs: East Semifinal | 76ers (1) vs. Hawks (5)

Film Study: Hawks allowing Embiid to work in the post

Joel Embiid has thrived despite the several defensive looks Atlanta has thrown his way.

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

Joel Embiid, Sixers look to maintain momentum in Game 3

The GameTime crew breaks down Joel Embiid's gutsy performance and if he can sustain it in Game 3.

Joel Embiid has totaled 79 points through two games of the Eastern Conference semifinals, in part because he’s one of the best players in the world and in part because the Atlanta Hawks have allowed him to be just that.

When the Philadelphia 76ers have gotten Embiid the ball in the post, the Hawks haven’t been particularly aggressive in trying to get it out of his hands. Embiid’s *usage rate of 39.9% through two games is his highest for any of the seven playoff series he’s played in. And his usage rate of 49.3% in Game 2 on Tuesday was the highest mark for any player in a playoff game (minimum 20 minutes played) in the last four years.

* Usage rate = the percentage of his team’s possessions a player uses (via field goal attempts, trips to the line, and turnovers) while he’s on the floor.

On Embiid’s first post-up of Game 1, the Hawks did quickly come with a double-team from the baseline. Embiid immediately threw a skip pass for a Seth Curry 3…

Seth Curry 3-pointer

Midway through the second quarter, the Hawks came with another double from the baseline and had one bad rotation (two guys closing to Danny Green), leading to another open 3…

Tobias Harris 3-pointer

The Hawks have mixed things up, even playing some zone. When they doubled in Game 2, they generally came from the high side. Midway way through the first quarter, Trae Young doubled and Kevin Huerter was slow in rotating to Danny Green…

Danny Green 3-pointer

Midway through the fourth, John Collins doubled, and the rotations were on point…

Hawks double and rotate

More often than not, the Hawks have allowed Embiid to keep the ball. According to Second Spectrum tracking, he has more post-ups in two games against the Hawks (32) than he did in 3 1/4 games against Washington (29). And he’s passed on only five (16%) of those 32, down from 11/29 (38%) in the first round and 33% in the regular season.

Clint Capela is one of the league’s best defensive centers, but midway through the second quarter of Game 2, Embiid bullied him under the basket…

Joel Embiid dunk

Single coverage has also allowed him to get comfortable shots in the paint…

Joel Embiid turnaround jumper

Sometimes, Embiid has chased the double away with a simple pass fake…

Joel Embiid step-back jumper

Through two games against the Hawks, Embiid has more points in the paint or at the free throw line (56) than he did in 3 1/4 games against the Wizards (54). He has read Atlanta’s double-teams pretty well and his teammates have scored efficiently; Non-Embiid Sixers have a *true shooting percentage of 60.6%. But he’s still scored more efficiently (66.2%) than they have.

* True shooting percentage = PTS / (2 * (FGA + (0.44 * FTA))). The league average in the postseason through Thursday is 57.1%.

The bigger difference between Games 1 and 2 was on Atlanta’s end of the floor, where the Hawks scored 128 points on 108 possessions in their win and just 102 on 98 in their loss. But they will have a difficult time winning three more games if the Sixers continue to score as efficiently as they have.

And in Game 3 on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), the Hawks will continue to have tough choices when Embiid catches the ball in the post.

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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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