ATLANTA — The Philadelphia 76ers remained confident after blowing big leads in back-to-back losses to the Atlanta Hawks and continued to avoid self-doubt after falling behind by 12 early in Game 6.
Finally, the 76ers showed their belief in their talent, and their No. 1 seed, were justified.
Seth Curry hit six 3-pointers and scored 24 points and the 76ers avoided elimination in the Eastern Conference semifinal series by beating the Hawks 104-99 on Friday night.
The 76ers overcame Trae Young’s 34-point effort to force Game 7 on Sunday night in Philadelphia.
“You saw the fight and grit of a whole group,” said Tobias Harris, who also had 24 points.
Harris made four free throws in the final 13 seconds to protect the lead. Joel Embiid added 22 points and 13 rebounds.
“Tonight I think we showed that mental toughness and came out on top,” Ben Simmons said.
Curry made six of nine 3s as he served as Philadelphia’s answer for Young’s long-distance shooting.
“It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun,” Curry said. “That’s a great team over there. … You’ve just got to weather the storm and come back at them at the other end.”
Young’s long 3, just before the shot clock expired, cut Philadelphia’s lead to 94-93. Embiid answered with a basket. Free throws by Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, who scored 16 points off the bench, pushed the advantage to 98-93.
Danilo Gallinari’s jam with 20 seconds remaining cut the lead to three points but the 76ers made six of six free throws to close the game.
The Hawks rallied from deficits of 18 and 26 points to win back-to-back games and were in position to clinch the series at home.
“That stung for us as a whole team,” Harris said of blowing big leads in two losses. “We said there’s really going to be a lot of criticism but we really have to stay focused because the series isn’t over. … As a group we basically just locked into that.”
The Hawks finally started strong, leading by 12 points in the first period and never trailing in the first half. Atlanta led 51-47 at halftime.
The 76ers opened the second half with a flurry of four 3s, including three by Curry, during a 14-0 run to open the second half that gave Philadelphia a 61-51 lead. The 76ers led by 11 at 68-57, following a jumper by Embiid.
“I don’t think we were tight,” said Hawks coach Nate McMillan, who said the team struggled when it “just started to take quick shots. We didn’t make them work on defense.”
Atlanta cut the lead to 80-76 entering the final period.
After outscoring Philadelphia 40-19 in the fourth quarter of their 109-106 comeback win in Game 5, the Hawks took the momentum into the opening period of Game 6.
Collins’ jumper to open the game helped Atlanta score 10 of the game’s first 12 points. A steal and free throw by Kevin Huerter, who had 17 points, stretched the advantage to 12 points for the first time at 20-8.
A long 3-pointer by Young again extended the lead to 12 at 25-13.
Maxey’s strong play off the bench helped the 76ers recover. Maxey’s floater early in the second period tied the game at 29-all.
Following a timeout that gave McMillan the chance to send Collins and Young back into the game, Atlanta answered with a 10-0 run that included three baskets and a steal by Young.
Following his fast-break lay-in during the run, Young celebrated with a smile and shoulder shimmy.