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Sixers vs. Hawks: Game Preview

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The Sixers will see a familiar face on the opposing sidelines tonight when they take on the Hawks.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off Saturday’s win over the Charlotte Hornets, the Sixers are back at .500 entering a busy stretch that will see them play a whopping 5 games over the next 7 days. First up, a home meeting against the Atlanta Hawks, where they’ll encounter a familiar face on the sidelines: former Sixers assistant coach and current Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce.

Pierce spent the last five seasons with the Sixers, so he’s no stranger to the trials and tribulations of a full franchise rebuild, likely a factor taken into consideration when he was hired by the Hawks. Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk arrived in Atlanta from the Golden State front office in the summer of 2017, but made his first big splash this past draft. Schlenk passed on many people’s top prospect in the class, Luka Doncic, in order to trade back two spots with Dallas and select Oklahoma star Trae Young, while also picking up a 2019 top-five-protected first-round pick.

A trade later in the summer unloading point guard Dennis Schröder to the Thunder fully signaled the Hawks were all-in on the rebuild. Building your team around a 20-year-old, 180-pound point guard is going to come with some growing pains even under the best of circumstances. However, under Pierce’s guidance, the young Hawks sit at 2-3 and respectably sport the 17th-best net rating in the league (-2.2), one spot ahead of our very own Philadelphia 76ers. Pierce was in charge of the defensive side of the ball in Philadelphia and was tasked with establishing a defensive identity in Atlanta. So far, so good. The Hawks currently have the NBA’s 8th-best defensive rating (104.4).

As expected, it’s been an up-and-down start for Trae Young, sandwiching four games shooting below 40% around a 35-point, 11-assist explosion against the Cavaliers. Young will always have limitations to his game because of his size, but he’s on pace to crush Donovan Mitchell’s rookie record for three-pointers attempted. If he can hit those at an efficient clip (just 32.4% so far) and pair it with his elite court vision, he’ll be a dangerous offensive weapon for years to come.

It will be interesting to see if the Sixers go with Robert Covington as Young’s primary defender, as we saw when he was tasked with Kemba Walker on Saturday, or try matching more of a similar size profile with Markelle Fultz. A factor in that decision may be how Brett Brown wants to contend with third-year wing Taurean Prince, who has been Atlanta’s top player this season, averaging 20.6 points on 46.7%/41.7%/94.7% shooting splits, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. Prince can not only function as an effective spot-up shooter, but he is really coming into his own in terms of his ability to create offense for himself and others. Defensively, he, Kent Bazemore, and former St. Joe’s Hawk DeAndre’ Bembry also form a swirling cyclone of long limbs and dynamic energy on the wings that I’m sure Coach Pierce enjoys getting to unleash in his schemes.

The Sixers enter play this evening 11-point favorites, so one would certainly expect them to take care of business and remain undefeated at home this season. No opposing coach will know better what Philadelphia is trying to do than Lloyd Pierce, though, and in today’s make-or-miss league, the high variance of an all-out three-point barrage from Trae Young and company could also swing a game. We’ll see how things play out when the action tips off at 7:00pm EST.

Injury Report:

Philadelphia - Wilson Chandler (hamstring); Zhaire Smith (foot); Jerryd Bayless (knee)
Atlanta - John Collins (ankle); Justin Anderson (leg); Alex Poythress (knee); Daniel Hamilton (shoulder)

Game Info:

Time: 7:00pm EST
Place: The Center, Philadelphia, PA
TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic
Twitter: @Liberty_Ballers