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Hawks fly high



TRAE Young delivers a double-double performance to lead the Atlanta Hawks to the Eastern Conference finals. (AFP)

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Kevin Huerter scored a playoff career-high 27 points as the upstart Atlanta Hawks punched their ticket to their first Eastern Conference finals in six years with a 103-96 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7.

All-star Trae Young finished with 21 points and 10 assists, John Collins had 14 points and 16 rebounds and Danilo Gallinari came off the bench to score 17 points for the Hawks, who won three games in Philadelphia to take the series 4-3.

Meanwhile, Devin Booker delivered a 40-point triple-double as the Suns shook off some playoff rust to beat the fourth-seeded Clippers, 120-114, in the opening game of the West finals earlier Sunday.

“Winning Game 7 is a treat for us,” Huerter said.

“We are a little naive. We always believe we can win.”

The Hawks will now face the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of their series on Wednesday as both National Basketball Association (NBA) semifinals are now set.

The Phoenix Suns have a 1-0 lead over the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference finals.

The Hawks made a surprise by dispatching the New York Knicks in five games in the opening round.

They needed a balanced offense in Sunday’s winner-take-all contest, and the 22-year-old Huerter needed to shoot well because of all the injuries, including De’Andre Hunter, who had a right knee injury.

After the game, Young slipped off his jersey and went up into the stands at Wells Fargo Arena to hand it to his father for Father’s Day.

“A winning jersey. I wanted to win it for my dad,” he said.

Joel Embiid scored a game-high 31 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Sixers.

But he also committed eight turnovers, including a key wobble with 41 seconds left in the fourth.

Tobias Harris added 24 points and 14 rebounds, Seth Curry had 16 points and Ben Simmons contributed 13 assists in the loss.

Game 7 was a see-saw contest with 20 lead changes and 19 ties but the turning point came in the final minute of the fourth.

Embiid’s turnover was preceded by a costly foul by reserve guard Matisse Thybulle which sent Huerter to the foul line for three shots. Huerter made all three to boost the lead to 96-92 and the Hawks held on from there.