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Sixers hold off Hawks to avoid elimination, force decisive Game 7

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The top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers needed an undrafted, veteran guard and the 21st pick in the 2020 NBA draft to help extend their season.

Seth Curry, the younger brother of Steph Curry, scored 24 points, and Tyrese Maxey had 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench as the Sixers defeated the Atlanta Hawks 104-99 in Game 6 of this Eastern Conference semifinal series.

All-Star center Joel Embiid’s putback gave the Sixers a 96-93 advantage, and he followed with two made throws, pushing Philadelphia’s lead to 97-93 with 1:15 left in the fourth quarter. Maxey made 3-of-4 free throws in the final 27.2 seconds.

"I thought this was a great team win for us," Sixers forward Tobias Harris said. "We’ve still got more work to do though."

Game 7 is Sunday in Philadelphia (8 p.m. ET, TNT). The winner will play the winner of Milwaukee-Brooklyn in the conference finals, which begin Wednesday.

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The Hawks are trying to reach the conference finals for the second time since the franchise moved to Atlanta in 1968. The Sixers haven’t reached the conference finals since Allen Iverson led them to the NBA Finals in 2001.

Playing with a small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee, Embiid struggled but came through when needed late in the game. He was 9-for-24 from the field and attempted just four free throws, six below his playoff average. He finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds.

Harris added 24 points and made four free throws in the final 13.3 seconds to secure the win. The Sixers hit on 41% of their 3s, and Curry made 6-of-9. Philadelphia attempted just three free throws in the first half but got to the line 20 times in the fourth quarter.

The Hawks went to Hack-A-Simmons midway through the fourth quarter, and Ben Simmons made 2-of-4 and extended Philadelphia’s lead to 88-81. Sixers coach Doc Rivers was forced to replace Simmons with Maxey, whose production was necessary with Simmons in foul trouble most of the game.

"We showed him a bunch of film," Sixers coach Doc Rivers said of Maxey. "I talked to him this morning and told him, 'You’re going to be the first guy off the bench.' ... We also told him down the stretch of the game, we’re going to need him on the floor with Ben because we needed a ball-handler. Tyrese is ready. The whole thing with Tyrese, he did a phenomenal job.

"He keeps working, he keeps watching film. Everyone’s going to give him shine about the offense, but I thought this was the single-best defensive night of the season for him."

The Sixers had a sloppy and uninspired first half with their season on the line but trailed just 51-47. They started the third quarter with a 14-0 run for a 61-51 lead. Curry had 11 of those points, nine on 3-pointers.

Trae Young led the Hawks with 34 points and 12 assists, and Kevin Huerter had 17 points but just two in the second half. Clint Capela added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Atlanta’s offensive struggled in the second half with 48 points on 38% shooting. The Hawks also made just 13-of-24 free throws.

The Hawks' Bogdan Bogdanovic left the game with right knee soreness at the 9:55 mark of the fourth quarter and did not return. He has struggled offensively and had scored just seven points on 3-for-11 shooting.

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sixers hold off Hawks to force Game 7 in NBA playoffs