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The Atlanta Hawks eliminated the Philadelphia 76ers 103-96 in Game 7 on Sunday to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

Atlanta is headed to its first Eastern Conference finals since 2015.

Hawks star guard Trae Young scored 21 points despite dismal 5-of-23 shooting from the field.

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Joel Embiid scored 31 points in a losing effort for the No. 1 seed Philadelphia.

This marks the first time since 1973 that both No. 1 seeds will not make the East conference finals. The No. 4 seed Los Angeles Clippers defeated No. 1 seed Utah Jazz 131-119 at Vivint Arena in Game 7 on Friday, June 18.

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Atlanta takes on No. 3 seed Milwaukee Bucks in the conference finals. The Bucks eliminated No. 2 Brooklyn Nets 115-111 in overtime in Game 7 at Barclays Center on Saturday.

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Trade rumors ran rampant on Twitter.com after star point guard Ben Simmons phoned in another dreadful game on Sunday.

Philly had coach Doc Rivers seemed to second guess his star's skills during the post-game conference. Rivers has lost nine Game 7s in his career.

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Philadelphia blew a 26-point lead as the Atlanta Hawks defeated the 76ers 109-106 to take an improbable 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Philadelphia collapsed in the 4th quarter, as Atlanta - led by scrappy guard Trae Young (pictured), began their incredible comeback.

The Hawks trailed by 22 points at halftime of Game 5 at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday. The 76ers led by 26 points three minutes into the third quarter.

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The Hawks outscored the 76ers 40-19 in the 4th quarter. Young scored 25 of his 39 points in the 4th to give the Hawks a 3-2 series lead.

Young scored 13 of his fourth-quarter points in the final 4:30 to silence the crowd for good. Young hit five free throws in the final seconds to seal the win and hand Philly its worst playoffs choke in team history.

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Philadelphia's star power forward Joel Embiid was hobbled by a small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee. But Philly head coach Doc Rivers wasn't concerned about Embiid's knee prior to Game 5.

"I have no more [concern]," Rivers said on Tuesday. "I really don't. Obviously, he's not going to be exactly what it was all the time with the injury, but I'll take what we have. So I have no concern."

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NBA expert Jack Maloney praised Hawks veteran Lou Williams (#6) who came off the bench to score 13 points in just over four minutes.

"Williams did what he's been doing his whole career, and got hot in a hurry," Maloney wrote, "there's no way the Hawks win this game without him. This was a big time performance from the veteran."

"Nobody was hanging their heads. Nobody was pouting on the bench," Williams said. "You couldn't tell from the body language that we were down big throughout the majority of this game."

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NBA legend Allen Iverson watched as his beloved 76ers let Game 5 slip away on the 76ers home court.

"These guys just don't give up. They continue to fight," head coach Nate McMillan said in the post-game press conference.

Atlanta can close out the series in Game 6 at home on Friday, June 18, at Philips Arena (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Watch Game 5 highlights below.
 

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Chris Paul entered the NBA's health and safety protocol after testing positive for Covid-19, according to the Phoenix Suns.

Paul received both Pfizer mRNA vaccine shots, said a source speaking anonymously to The Associated Press.

Covid mRNA vaccines do not protect against contracting the virus or transmitting the virus. However, the CDC continues to urge people to take the still experimental shots.

Paul could be cleared to return quicker than someone who tested positive for the virus but didn't take the shots.

In March, after all teams chose to receive the vaccines, the NBA said "if an individual has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the previous protocols apply” — meaning anyone with those symptoms “may be subject to quarantine” regardless of their vaccination status.

Phoenix practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday without Paul, in preparation for the start of the Western Conference finals next week.

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Paul embraced Head coach Monte Williams after scoring 37 points in Game 4 to help the Suns sweep the Denver Nuggets in the Conference semifinals on June 13 at Ball Arena in Denver.

The Suns will take on the winner of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

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The Phoenix Suns eliminated the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers 113-100 in Game 6 on Thursday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals.

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The Suns won their first NBA playoff series since 2010, eliminating the Lakers 4 games to 2.

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Lakers forward LeBron James (#23) finished with 29 points, nine rebounds, 7 assists, two blocked shots and 1 steal in a losing effort.

James was eliminated in the first round for the first time ever in his 18-year career, which includes 4 championships.

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The Lakers didn't have their eight-time All-star center Anthony Davis (#3) who suffered a groin injury in Game 4 and missed all of Game 5 of the series.

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The team doctor gave Davis the OK to return to the starting lineup in Game 6. However, Davis was in obvious pain and struggled in the opening minutes. He headed to the locker room after playing less than 5 1/2 minutes of the 1st quarter.

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The Suns' star guard Devin Booker (#1) led all scorers with a playoffs career-high 47 points, 11 rebounds and eight 3-pointers. He made all six 3-point attempts in the 1st quarter.

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"I've been working my whole life for this moment... so it wasn't time to shy away from it," Booker told reporters after the game.

Booker and teammate Jae Crowder were ejected from the game in the final minute for a flagrant foul and a technical respectively.

Chris Paul scored 8 points and had 12 assists for the Suns.

Fans were angry that LeBron James walked off the court without shaking hands with the Western Conference champs after the game.

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He made up for his unsportsmanlike conduct by gifting a signed jersey to Booker, who sought him out in the arena tunnel after the game.

The Suns next face Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets in game 1 of the second round on Monday, June 7, in Phoenix.

The Nuggets eliminated Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers 126-115 to clinch game 6 in Portland on Thursday night.

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NY Knicks fans mocked Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young by chanting "Trae is balding" during game 2 of the NBA playoffs Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

The taunting was enough to throw the 22-year-old superstar off his game as the Knicks coasted to a 101-92 win to tie the series at 1-1.

Wednesday's playoffs win was the first for the Knicks since 2013.

Trae's unruly hair has been the subject of discussion since he entered the league as a first round draft pick in 2018.

One sports blogger noted his flyaway hair looked like "the stuff that get caught in the shower drain."

In a post titled, "It's time to talk about Trae Young's hair," the blogger noted Trae's receding hairline and his balding dome.

Even before the game 2 started at Madison Square Garden, Knicks fans received handouts urging them to chant "Trae is balding!"

Twitter user @jaklap wrote, the "entire garden has been handed these."

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A Philadelphia 76ers fan who tossed popcorn at Russell Westbrook was ejected from the arena and banned from attending future games.

The incident happened on Wednesday, May 26, when the Washington Wizards star was limping to the locker room after suffering a minor injury during Sixers Game 2 win.

As he limped into the tunnel, a Sixers fans causally dropped a few popcorn kernels on his head.

Westbrook went berserk as at least four strong assistants struggled mightily to restrain him.

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Westbrook has a long history of verbal altercations with NBA fans in the stands. They know how to trigger the sensitive superstar.

NBA fans and players reacted to the incident on social media.

LeBron James, who is also a favorite target for hate, tweeted:

"By the way WE AS THE PLAYERS wanna see who threw that popcorn on Russ while he was leaving the game tonight with a injury!! There’s cameras all over arenas so there’s no excuse! Cause if the [shoe] was on the other [foot]. #ProtectOurPlayers."

 

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Draymond Green gave his opinion on the wide disparity in pay between male NBA and female WNBA players.

The Golden State Warriors power forward told reporters he's "really tired" of WNBA players complaining about the pay gap.

He said, female athletes, particularly WNBA players, are "doing themselves a disservice by just complaining."

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When NBC reporter Kerith Burke noted that women are doing more to close the gap, Green said the women are just complaining, rather than taking steps to close the gap.

Green suggested WNBA players should up their game to bring fans through the door and increase revenue.

"Because the people that can change it, they're just going to continue to say, 'Well, the revenue isn't there. The revenue isn't there. So, if you don't bring in the revenue, we can't up your pay.' They're going keep using that," Green argued.

Despite his pessimism, Green is a staunch ally of women's sports and particularly the WNBA. He is pictured with Aerial Powers of the Washington Mystics in a photo dated September 24, 2019.

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Green, pictured with his son Draymond Green Jr., said he is looking at the most effective way to help women get the marketing attention and compensation they've demanded.

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Atlanta-based NBA reporter Sekou Smith passed away Tuesday. He was 48. His exact cause of death wasn’t given, but Smith had tested positive for Covid-19.

Smith was a sports analyst and reporter on NBA TV and NBA.com. He worked out of the Turner Sports offices in Atlanta.

Before joining Turner, Smith was an Atlanta Hawks beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In a statement, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called Smith "one of the most affable and dedicated reporters in the NBA."

NBA stars reacted to the news of Smith's passing on social media.

Chris Paul tweeted: "Man today just got a little heavier... my condolences to Sekou's wife, family, friends, and extended NBA family. What a kind and compassionate man we just lost."

Retired NBA star Dwyane Wade wrote: "I've never had anything but positive interactions and conversations with Sekou Smith. Our prayers go out to the Smith family. We lost a good one. Rest in Heaven."

In a tribute on NBA TV, reporter Matt Winer referred to Smith as "a journalist's journalist. Skeptical. Endearingly cranky. Always passionate about the subject matter he loved though: sports. And most importantly, a devoted husband and father. A great friend to so many of us here..."

Smith leaves behind a wife, Heather, and three children, Gabriel, Reilly and Cameron.
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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver suggested that NBA players receive the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines first as a PSA for Black people.

In a Zoom interview with Sportico, Silver said Black people are 3 times more likely to die from Covid, and "somewhat perversely, there's been enormous resistance in the African American community" to getting vaccinated 'for understandable historical reasons."

Adams said he spoke with the people who ran the trials at Pfizer and Moderna who told him the Black community declined to volunteer during the 6-month testing phase.

"If that resistance continues, based on the earlier data I cited, there'll be very much a double whammy to the Black community because the only way, ultimately, out of this pandemic is to get vaccinated."

Adams suggested NBA players should get preferential treatment and be allowed to jump the line because they have "great influence" among young Black people who may be more willing to roll up their sleeves after they see NBA players getting vaccines.

The reaction was overwhelmingly negative on Twitter.com. One user wrote: "Is it racist to think black folks will take the vaccine because a basketball player take it?"

User @ZuluX11 tweeted: "This is becoming disturbing. When have you ever cared about the Black Community? Why are trying so desperately to force the vaccine on us? Why isnt he mentioning his personal community? Force it on them. I hope people wake up eventually."

And a third user wrote: "Imagine if Trump chose a bunch of white people to give it to to spread the word so the white community trusts the vaccine.....lol double standard much? Is this how the next 4yrs gon be? 4 yrs of #DoAsISayNotAsIDoDems its gon be rough [sic]."
 

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The Houston Rockets fined NBA star James Harden $50,000 after a video surfaced of him allegedly partying in a strip club without a mask.

The 31-year-old star player, who attended the party on Monday, Dec. 21, was in violation of the NBA’s health protocols, which forbids players from going into bars and nightclubs, or gathering in groups of more than 15 people.

The NBA canceled the Rocket's home opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder, after Harden's health code violation and several players tested positive, leaving the Rockets without the league-mandated eight players to play in a game.

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Harden tested negative for Covid-19, meaning he will be eligible to play on Saturday.

Harden responded to the misunderstanding on his Instagram page.

"One thing after another. I went to show love to my homegirl at her event (not a strip club) because she is becoming a boss and putting her people in position of success and now it's a problem.

"Everyday it's something different. No matter how many times people try to drag my name under you can't. The real always end up on top [sic]."