On brink of elimination, 76ers’ Doc Rivers confident there will be a Game 7

Doc Rivers believes the 76ers will be back in Philadelphia on Sunday – to play a Game 7 and not to pack up for the summer after a series- and season-ending loss.

It’s optimistic of the coach of the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The 76ers are on the brink of elimination after blowing a 26-point lead at home in a stunning Game 5 loss to the Hawks, 109-106 on Wednesday. The best-of-seven semifinals returns to Atlanta for Game 6 on Friday, and it’s the Hawks who hold a 3-2 lead and are on the verge of the conference finals.

The deflating loss comes after the 76ers couldn’t hold a 18-point lead in Game 4 on Monday.

“We’ll get back up,” Rivers said. “We’ll be back here for Game 7. I believe that. The mood was down. It was awful. What would you think it would be? It would have to be. This is part of sports. You have some awful moments. There is no guaranteed path to get to your goal. We have made this hard on ourselves. We have to own up to that. All of us. Then we have to get up and be ready for the next game. It’s going to be a crazy atmosphere. Good. We’ll be ready for it.”

The Hawks outscored the 76ers 40-19 in the fourth quarter. Only three players scored for the 76ers in the final 12 minutes – Seth Curry (11 points), Joel Embiid (6) and Ben Simmons (2). Hawks reserve Lou Williams scored 13 points himself in the fourth quarter.

The 76ers led 72-46, a 26-point advantage, with 8:31 left in the third quarter. They still held a 25-point lead, 83-58, with 3:19 left in the period.

And then it all fell apart.

By the start of the fourth quarter, the 76ers lead was 18 points. The lead remained double-digits until John Collins banked in a 3-pointer with 5:25 to play, cutting the Hawks’ deficit to eight points, 100-92. The 76ers’ lead was back up to 10 points, 104-94, with 4:23 left when Simmons, all of players, made a pair of free throws.

The Hawks answered with a 15-0 run to all but finish the game, taking the lead for good on the third of three free throws from Trae Young with 1:26 left. Curry broke the drought with the 76ers’ final points, a basket with 0.1 seconds remaining after the remarkable outcome had been decided.

“Down the stretch, we scored 19 points and gave up 40,” Rivers said. “So, it’s on us. It’s on all of us. It’s on me. It’s on the players. We have to figure out how to get back up, which we will and bring that back here for Game 7.”

According to ESPN, the 76ers are the only team to blow an 18-point lead in back-to-back playoff games in the past 25 seasons. ESPN also reported that the 76ers had a win probability of 95.5% at one point in Game 4. They had a 99.7% win probability late in the third quarter of Game 5.

“It shouldn’t (affect us psychologically),” Curry said. “Grown men over here. Go watch the film. Learn from it. Bounce back. We know who we are as a team and as players. One game should never affect the next.”

Embiid (37 points) and Curry (36) accounted for 69% of the 76ers’ offense. Just 20 points came from the other three starters and 13 points from the bench. Embiid, who also had 13 rebounds, had 17 first-quarter points and 24 first-half points.

“You press the emergency button,” Furkan Korkmaz said of the rapidly declining lead. “We have to come more together. I think overall you miss some shots, you play bad defense, you play good basketball for two or three minutes and then you play bad basketball for five minutes. But this is playoff basketball.

“They are taking advantage of every minute, and I think that’s the whole point of the game. You have to take care of all possessions, every possession matters, every point matters.”

One game – that’s Game 6 in Atlanta on Friday – is all that matters now.

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