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

Sixers' improved offensive efficiency on display in Game 3 victory

Faced with constant double-teams, Joel Embiid maintains his dominance as Philly regains control of the series.

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

Joel Embiid is averaging 35.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.3 blocks in this series.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Philadelphia 76ers are 6-2 in these playoffs, now holding a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals after a 127-111 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 3 on Friday.

The surprise is that the Sixers are two wins from the conference finals with the postseason’s third-ranked offense. With the Brooklyn Nets losing an ugly game in Milwaukee on Thursday and the Sixers registering their fifth-most efficient game of the season (127 points on 97 possessions) 24 hours later, Philly has had the more efficient offense of the East’s top two seeds.

That’s pretty remarkable given that the Nets had the most efficient regular season offense in NBA history and (despite that game on Thursday) have been better in the playoffs. The Sixers haven’t just seen the biggest jump in points scored per 100 possessions from the regular season (112.5, 13th in the league) to the playoffs (121.8). That 121.8 is 2.3 more points per 100 possessions than any eight-game stretch that they had in the regular season.

Biggest jump, points scored per 100 possessions, regular season to playoffs

Team Reg. season Rank Playoffs Rank Diff.
Philadelphia 112.5 13 121.8 3 9.3
Utah 116.5 4 122.3 1 5.7
Portland 117.1 2 122.1 2 5.0
Brooklyn 117.3 1 120.8 4 3.6
Memphis 111.7 15 115.0 8 3.3

Through June 11, 2021

Getting to the line

Like they did in the regular season (29.3 per 100), the Sixers lead the playoffs in free throw rate, attempting 35.2 freebies per 100 shots from the field. Ben Simmons is an ugly 17-for-48 (35%) from the line, but Joel Embiid is 62-for-74 (84%).

After allowing Joel Embiid to go to work in the post for most of the first two games, the Hawks were more aggressive with double-teams in Game 3. They kept Embiid to fewer than 30 points, but he dished out eight assists (just the eighth time in his career he’s had eight or more) and sometimes just went through the double …

Trae Young foul on Joel Embiid

Shooting well from everywhere

Free throws are great, but the most important thing in this game is shooting from the field. And the Sixers also rank first in effective field goal percentage (59.0%) in the playoffs. They rank first (by a healthy margin) in field goal percentage in the paint (62.3%), third in mid-range field percentage (49.1%) and fourth in 3-point percentage (39.2%).

On Friday, the Sixers were 25-for-30 in the restricted area, in part because the Hawks kept allowing them to get into the middle of the floor off pick-and-rolls that started on the side …

Tobias Harris drive

Starters on fire, but down a man

The Sixers’ offensive success starts with a starting lineup that has scored a remarkable 142.5 points per 100 possessions in its 109 minutes in the playoffs. It’s shot 63% from the field and 43% from 3-point range, with an assist turnover ratio of 3.50.

Bench minutes have been an issue, but Tobias Harris (who’s averaged an efficient 23.6 points per game in the playoffs) led a solid second unit in Game 3, when the Sixers scored 37 points on just 24 possessions in 13 minutes with Harris on the floor without Embiid. Harris scored 13 of those 37 points himself, and also dished out a couple of assists …

Tobias Harris lob to Dwight Howard

But the Sixers will be down a man for the foreseeable future, because Danny Green suffered a right calf strain in the first quarter on Friday. Furkan Korkmaz started the second half for Green and the Sixers have more options — George Hill, Tyrese Maxey, Shake Milton and Matisse Thybulle — beyond that. But Green could be the best combination of shooting and defense among that group and will be missed for however long he’s out. The Sixers have scored 125.4 points per 100 possessions in 29 playoff minutes with the other four starters on the floor without him.

Up next: Game 4

The Sixers’ defense had some magnificent moments on Friday, but the Hawks’ offense still had a solid game overall, scoring 111 points on 97 possessions. And the game wasn’t close. That’s how good the Philly offense was. Embiid has been dominant in this series, and his supporting cast has been almost as good.

The Sixers themselves can’t look beyond Game 4 on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT), but the rest of us can see how well they’ve been playing on both ends of the floor and imagine the possibilities further down the road.

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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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