Atlanta’s Trae Young goes up for a shot against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, 21, Matisse Thybulle, 22, and Seth Curry, 31, in the second half Wednesday night at Philadelphia. Matt Slocum/Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks pulled off a playoff comeback for the ages against the Philadelphia 76ers to move within a victory of the Eastern Conference finals.

Young was fouled on a 3-pointer and hit all three free throws with 1:26 left to cap a 26-point comeback and send Atlanta on its way to a 109-106 victory over the 76ers on Wednesday night in Game 5.

The Hawks won in Philadelphia for second time in the series and can advance to the conference final for the first time since 2015 with a victory Friday night in Atlanta.

Young scored 39 points and added to a postseason where he has become a breakout star.

“We keep fighting no matter what the score is. I’m proud of this team,” Young said. “We have confidence in each other. We all love each other’s company and it shows on the court. We never stop believing until the final buzzer goes off.”

Joel Embiid scored 17 points in the first quarter and had the Sixers on their way toward a romp with a 26-point lead in the first half. They still led 87-69 at the end of the third before they collapsed.

Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari and Young opened the fourth on a huge run against the Sixers’ second unit and kept attacking once 76ers Coach Doc Rivers was forced to put the starters in and save the lead.

Gallinari hit a 3 that made it 87-76 and Embiid sprang from his cool down seat behind the basket and ran to the scorer’s table to check back in the game. He instantly scored and pushed the lead back to 13.

Didn’t matter.

The big shots kept coming for the Hawks – Williams buried a 3 that made it an 11-point game – and Young kept hitting his floaters and his fouls shots.

Ben Simmons, along with Embiid the cornerstone for the Sixers, missed free throw after free throw much as he has for most of the postseason that sped up Atlanta’s comeback.

Young’s floater brought them within two and then he leaned into a 3-pointer and was fouled by Matisse Thybulle. Young, taunted all series by Sixers fans, calmly stepped to the line and buried all three shots. And so it was, 105-104 Hawks.

Gallinari scored 16 points, Williams had 15 points and John Collins had 19 points and 11 rebounds.

Embiid scored 39 points and Seth Curry had 36. Simmons was 4 for 14 from the free-throw line and even Embiid missed two big ones down the stretch. Simmons missed two with the Sixers up 104-96 and the Hawks came right down and scored.

NOTES

SUNS: Guard Chris Paul has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and it is unclear whether he’ll be available for the start of the Western Conference finals next week, a person with knowledge of the situation said Wednesday.

The Suns are not certain exactly how long Paul will have to be away from the team, the person said, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the player nor the team have publicly released anything about the situation.

Paul has been vaccinated against COVID-19, said another person, also speaking on condition of anonymity because of privacy concerns. And that may mean that Paul, if he has tested positive, could be cleared to return more quickly than those who tested positive earlier this season before vaccines were readily available.

The Athletic first reported that Paul was entering the protocols.

The earliest the West finals would begin is Sunday. It depends on how long the other West semifinal series between Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers lasts; if the Jazz-Clippers matchup ends Friday, then Game 1 between the winner of that series and the Suns will be Sunday afternoon.

Otherwise, the likely start date for Game 1 of the West series is Tuesday.

The protocols are the league’s playbook for handling all matters related to the coronavirus this season. There have been examples of players missing multiple weeks following positive COVID-19 tests; there have also been examples of players missing very short amounts of time for matters such as contact tracing investigations.

In March, the league also relaxed some of the protocols that were put into place last fall, doing so in response to players and coaches choosing to receive the vaccine that protects against the coronavirus. But the league also cautioned at that time that “if an individual has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the previous protocols apply” – which would still mean that anyone with those symptoms “may be subject to quarantine” regardless of their vaccination status.

Paul scored 37 points in Game 4 of the West semifinals against Denver, helping Phoenix finish off a four-game sweep. He has only played in the West finals once in his career, doing so in 2018 with Houston against Golden State. The Rockets held a 3-2 lead in that series when Paul injured a hamstring and had to miss Games 6 and 7; Houston lost both and the Warriors went on to win the NBA title.

He is averaging 15.7 points and 8.7 assists per game in these playoffs, shooting 51% from the field, 44% from 3-point range and 91% from the foul line.

CLIPPERS: All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard has a right knee sprain that will keep him out of the lineup for Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City and raises questions about his availability going forward.

The Clippers said Wednesday that there is “no timetable for his return.”

It is a massive blow for the Clippers, who have split the first four games of their series with the top-seeded Jazz and are trying to reach the West finals for the first time in franchise history. Leonard is a two-time NBA Finals MVP, and is averaging 30.4 points on 57% shooting in the playoffs. The Clippers were 11-9 without Leonard during the regular season. They’re 6-1 so far in the playoffs when he scores at least 28 points, 0-4 otherwise.

Leonard’s injury appeared to occur with about 5:20 left in Game 4 of the series against Utah on Monday night, when he was fouled on a drive by Utah’s Bojan Bogdanovic. Leonard was dribbling into the lane when he was bumped, and his right knee appeared to buckle slightly. He grimaced in some discomfort, missed the two free throws that were awarded following the foul, but remained in the game for 45 more seconds.

He checked out with 4:35 remaining and did not return; the Clippers led by 16 points when he checked out and the lead remained in double figures the rest of the way.

Game 6 of the series is Friday in Los Angeles. Game 7, if necessary, would be back in Salt Lake City on Sunday. If the Clippers-Jazz series ends Friday, Game 1 of the Western Conference finals between the LA-Utah winner and Phoenix will be Sunday.

WIZARDS: Scott Brooks won’t be back next season after General Manager Tommy Sheppard announced the coach’s contract would not be extended. Sheppard said the Wizards will begin their coaching search immediately.

Brooks is out after just one playoff series victory in 2017 to show for his five seasons on the job. Washington made the playoffs three times in those five years. Sheppard skirted the issue of Brooks’ future after the Wizards were eliminated in five games in the first round by Eastern Conference top-seeded Philadelphia. Washington was 183-207 overall during the regular season with Brooks as coach and struggled defensively.

The Wizards allowed the most points in the NBA last season and the second-most in the previous two years. They never ranked better than 15th in the league defensively under Brooks.

Pelicans_Van_Gundy_Basketball_22624

Stan Van Gundy is out as the Pelicans coach following just one season. Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

PELICANS: Stan Van Gundy is out as coach in New Orleans following just one season at the helm.

The club described Van Gundy’s departure as a mutual agreement “to part ways.” Hired last October, about two months before the start of a pandemic-delayed and shortened season, Van Gundy coached a Pelicans squad led by All-Star Zion Williamson to a 31-41 record. New Orleans finished in 11th place, two games out of the final Western Conference play-in spot.

Now David Griffin, the Pelicans basketball operations chief, will be hiring his second coach in as many season after firing Alvin Gentry last summer. The next coach will be Williamson’s third since he entered the NBA as the league’s first overall draft choice in 2019.

Van Gundy spent parts of 12 previous seasons coaching Miami, Orlando and Detroit, winning 58% of his games and going to the playoffs eight times in that span.

MAVERICKS: Dallas General Manager Donnie Nelson, instrumental in the club’s acquisitions of Dirk Nowitzki and Luka Doncic, is leaving the organization after 24 seasons. The Mavericks said the club and Nelson agreed to part ways, with owner Mark Cuban saying the son of former coach Don Nelson was “instrumental to our success and helped bring a championship to Dallas.”

Nelson joined Dallas in 1998 when his dad was named coach. A few months later, the Mavericks moved down in the draft to get Nowitzki in a trade with Milwaukee. The 7-foot German led Dallas to the franchise’s only championship in 2011. With the Nowitzki era drawing to a close, the Mavericks made another draft-day deal for a young European in Doncic in 2018. Dallas moved up two spots to the No. 3 pick, while Atlanta got Trae Young.

Nowitzki and the teenager from Slovenia played together one season before Nowitzki retired. Doncic has twice been an All-Star and first-team All-NBA selection since then.


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