The Atlanta Hawks erased a big, fat zero from the franchise’s playoff history on Sunday night.
Entering Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Hawks owned an 0-9 record in Games 7s on the road.
Kevin Huerter led the Hawks with 27 points, superstar guard Trae Young added 21 on 5-for-23 shooting and 10 assists, and John Collins finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds in the resurgent club’s 103-96 win over top-seeded Philadelphia.
What’s more, backup forward Danilo Galinari had 27 points and Clint Capela chipped in with 13 points.
The Hawks won three road games in the back-and-forth series.
For Huerter, it was a hugely satisfying feat to win the pressure-filled Game 7.
“This team is special, man,” Huerter told reporters, according to The Associated Press. “Everybody has counted us out all year. For us to make it this far and win in this building in Game 7, it’s huge for us.”
Atlanta coach Nate McMillan noted that his team has elevated its play in recent weeks and rose to the occasion in the final game of the series.
“I felt like they were built for this moment tonight to win this game,” McMillan said after Game 7.
Up next: The No. 5 seed Atlanta Hawks face the Milwaukee Bucks, who outlasted the Brooklyn Nets in overtime in Game 7 of the other Eastern Conference semifinal series. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals is on Wednesday night in Milwaukee.
Poor start for Atlanta Hawks this season
McMillan was instrumental in orchestrating Atlanta’s turnaround this season. Consider: the Hawks had a 14-20 record when coach Lloyd Pierce was fired in March.
Since then, McMillan has pushed the right buttons and maximized his players’ talent.
The Atlanta Hawks closed out the season with 27 wins in 38 games under McMillan.
Disappointing finish for Philly
The 76ers now face a long offseason filled with self-reflection after a gut-wrenching loss.
Center Joel Embiid scored 31 points and snared 11 rebounds while also finishing with eight turnovers in Game 7. Tobias Harris finished with 24 points and 14 boards, while Ben Simmons scored five points and dished out 13 assists. Seth Curry had 16 points.
Embiid endured knee pain (right meniscus tear) in the series finale and talked about the injury after the game.
“I still believe if I was 100%, if we were all together,” he told reporters, “I still believe we had a shot at winning it all.”