Stinar: As Sixers head to playoffs, Hawks laying the groundwork

Trae Young of the Hawks doused by teammate DeAndre' Bembry as they and Justin Anderson (right) celebrate Young's winning basket against the Sixers on Saturday night in Atlanta.

ATLANTA — Trae Young embraces the big moment. With less than four seconds remaining Saturday night, Young drove to the basket and went up with a floater. The shot went through the net with just 0.1 seconds left in the game, and the Hawks stunned the Philadelphia 76ers, 129-127.

“There’s a lot for us to play for,” Young, who finished with 32 points, told reporters after the game.

Many lottery-bound teams fold. Their management might want them to lose, which leads to resting players, and frankly, some bad teams just don’t care. Not the Hawks. This team is special for a team that carries a record of 26-48. Instead of getting worse, it continues to improve. Maybe it’s because everyone has something to prove.

Lloyd Pierce is in his first season as an NBA coach, Young has had to deal with being compared to Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks since his first NBA game and John Collins is out to prove why he might be the Most Improved Player in The NBA. Every player has improved as the season has progressed.

As for the playoff-bound 76ers, they had a chance to witness it first-hand Saturday night.

“It’s tough having nine games left,” Ben Simmons told reporters. “Mentally, you’re drained you just want to get to the playoffs.”

Let’s not forget that this is the second time the Hawks have beaten them, both games coming down to one possession. The Hawks have found ways to close games out against one of the NBA’s best, even earlier in the season. While Simmons has a point about the final games of the season, they haven’t faired well against the young Hawks. He also thought on some of his misses he was fouled when no call was made.

“Some of them, I got fouled, but they didn’t call it,” he said when asked about not being able to finish like he usually does.

The All-Star had high praise for Young, who was the star of the night.

“He’s a smart player,” Simmons said. “He plays the game the right way.”

Simmons finished with 27 points and nine assists, while his fellow All-Star, Joel Embiid, put up 27 points and collected 12 rebounds. Embiid was also the last 76ers player to leave the locker room. He didn’t even get out of the showers unit nearly an hour after the game.

“I’m always gonna go back to the defensive side of the ball,” he said. “I just thought there was no energy.”

Philadelphia (47-26) allowed 129 points, the most since the Portland Trail Blazers tagged them for 130 on Feb. 23. Not too mention, the Blazers are also a playoff team in the West, while the Hawks head for the lottery.

It was a difficult loss for the 76ers, but as everyone is slowly becoming aware, the Hawks are a very good basketball team.