KEVIN Huerter scored a playoff career-high 27 points, Trae Young added 21 points and 10 assists and the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks stunned the host Philadelphia 76ers 103-96 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday.
The Hawks will face the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals.
Young shot five of 23, but made a couple of clutch shots down the stretch.
John Collins had 14 points and 16 rebounds while Danilo Gallinari had 17 points and Clint Capela 13 for the Hawks, who reached the conference finals for the first time since 2015. The Hawks won three games at Philadelphia in this series.
Joel Embiid led the top-seeded Sixers with 31 points and 11 rebounds yet committed eight turnovers. Tobias Harris added 24 points and 14 rebounds, Seth Curry had 16 points and Ben Simmons contributed 13 assists.
The Sixers haven’t reached the conference finals since 2001.
The Hawks led 48-46 at half time thanks in large part to Huerter’s 12 points. Young shot just one of 12 in the opening half.
Embiid had 15 points but committed four turnovers and appeared to tweak his injured right knee shortly before half time.
The game was tight throughout the third as the Hawks moved out to a 64-63 advantage with 4:45 left after a tough jumper by Huerter. He was fouled as well but missed the free throw.
Matisse Thybulle scored four late points in the period, but the Hawks closed the third strong and led 76-71.
Embiid scored the first five points of the fourth — a jumper and a 3-pointer — to tie the game at 76 with 10:37 to go.
The Hawks missed their first nine shots of the fourth but trailed only 81-77. Gallinari then connected on a trey to close the Hawks within one.
Young drove scored on a runner with 5:11 left to give the Hawks an 86-84 lead.
Embiid responded with a jumper with 4:14 remaining to tie the game at 86.
Young drained a deep 30-foot trey with 2:31 to go, and the Hawks led 93-87.
The Sixers went on a 5-0 run to close within one with 1:09 remaining.
Huerter was then fouled on a 3-pointer and dropped in all three for a 96-92 lead with 54 seconds left.
A Gallinari steal and dunk put Atlanta up 98-92 with 42 seconds left.
SUNS DRAW FIRST BLOOD
Devin Booker posted his first career triple-double Sunday afternoon, when he scored 40 points and collected 13 rebounds and 11 assists as the Phoenix Suns outlasted the visiting Los Angeles Clippers (120-114) in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
Booker scored 16 consecutive points for the Suns in the third quarter and 29 in the second half for second-seeded Phoenix, which was without All-Star point guard Chris Paul (health and safety protocols).
Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday night in Phoenix. Considering the Clippers dropped the first two games in each of their first two series this postseason, Booker said the series is far from over.
Making the Suns’ victory more impressive was doing so in their first playoff game this spring without their floor leader Paul. Even without their starting point guard, the Suns tallied a playoff high 31 assists in Game 1.
Paul George scored 34 points and dueled with Booker throughout the second half for “I like the way Devin did it, he didn’t inject himself into the game, he just did it out of what we do,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said about Booker’s duel with George. “I think the poise of our team was important in that moment. When a guy’s making shots like that, it’s easy to become deflated.”
Deandre Ayton scored 20 points for Phoenix with nine rebounds while Mikal Bridges (14 points), Jae Crowder (13 points), Cameron Johnson (12 points) and Cameron Payne (11 points, nine assists) also got into double digits.
Reggie Jackson had 24 points and DeMarcus Cousins added 11 points off the bench for the Clippers. Kawhi Leonard missed his third straight game with a right knee injury.
Neither team led by more than five points in the first half, during which there were 18 lead changes and eight ties, before George (16 points) and Booker (18 points) put on a show in the third quarter, when they combined to score almost half the combined points generated by both teams.
The Suns took their first eight-point lead at 76-68 on a pair of free throws by Booker with 7:13 left. George then scored eight straight points to tie the score before Booker drained a turnaround jumper to put Phoenix up 78-76. But Jackson sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around a basket by Ivica Zubac to complete the 16-2 run that gave the Clippers an 84-78 lead. — Reuters