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The Sixers fly past the Hawks, win 101-91

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In their first game since Joel Embiid’s freak injury, the Sixers prove they can get it done.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers won their ninth game in a row last night, for the first time since March of 2003, with a 101-91 defeat of the Atlanta Hawks. In the first game since Joel Embiid entered concussion protocol and was diagnosed with a fractured orbital bone, the Sixers proved they have other players they can rely on when the time comes. Obviously, the Sixers are a much better team with Embiid on the court, but it was heartening to see a Ben Simmons-led squad get the win, even against an underachieving Hawks team.

After the first quarter, one could have begun to worry about how this game was going to go, as the Sixers shot 1/8 from beyond the arc and 50% overall. Between the quarters, with the Sixers up 30-27, it was reported that J.J. Redick, who finished with 19 points, told his team that they could not give up anymore 20+ point quarters. Luckily, the team took that to heart, and held the Hawks to 14 and 18 points in the second and third quarters, respectively. The Hawks were able to put up 32 points in the fourth, but that was largely against the Sixers second unit.

The third quarter was where the Sixers really came alive. They outscored the Hawks by 21 points, the largest margin of victory in a quarter for the Sixers this year. In the third quarter, the Sixers shot 66.7% from three (on nine attempts) and 69.6% overall, leading to an effective field goal percentage of 82.6%.

The Sixers have been exceptional during their recent win streak in the third quarter, outscoring their opponent by an average of 12.22 points. Overall, the Sixers are besting their opponents by an average of 1.69 points in the third, a number that is bolstered by the current streak of third-quarter dominance. Before the March 15th win against the Knicks which kicked off this winning streak, the Sixers were outscoring their opponents by an average of .26 points.

Pregame, Brett Brown noted that he expected the pace of the game to be faster without Embiid in the lineup. Although it is true that the Sixers get about 1.5 more possessions per game when Embiid is out of the line-up, during the recent win streak the Sixers have really been pushing the pace. In games that they’ve won this season they average 102 possessions, but in the last 9 games, they’ve averaged 105.36. Brown also expected his team to embrace the three-point line more. The team confirmed this expectation, shooting 38 three-pointers, their third-highest mark on the season. However, they only shot 21.2% from beyond the arc, their fourth-lowest three-point shooting percentage of the season.

The Atlanta Hawks were without two of their best players last night, in Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore. In their stead, the Hawks started Damion Lee, a 25-year-old rookie who played some college ball at Drexel, and Isaiah Taylor. Lee took advantage of the opportunity, scoring 20 points in 32 minutes of play.

Tomorrow, the Sixers continue their two-game road trip with a game against the Charlotte Hornets. In their last meeting, the Sixers took care of the Hornets handily, with a 25 point and 20 rebound performance by Joel Embiid.

The teams of Philadelphia live and die by a ‘next one up’ mentality and the Sixers are no different. When asked post-game if he had a message for Embiid, interim-leader Ben Simmons responded “Get ready for the playoffs. We’re gonna hold it down”.

Other Notes

Ben Simmons notched his 11th triple-double of the season, finishing with 11-12-11 (he just had to get that extra rebound to remove the fun of the 11th triple-double being 11-11-11). Simmons continues to awe spectators with his passing abilities, including this behind the back pass to Marco Belinelli:

Ersan Ilyasova came up big against his former team, scoring a game-high 21 points. He also contributed 16 rebounds and a pair of assists. It’s not a true Ilyasova game without taking a charge, so he did that as well. Ilyasova finished -20 on the night, largely due to the garbage time minutes that he played with the second unit at the end of the game. Through three quarters, he was +7.

Richaun Holmes will see more minutes in the absence of Embiid, which means everyone gets to enjoy more Holmes slams. Last night didn’t disappoint, in a highlight that could have equally gone to Ilyasova and Simmons due to some extraordinary passing.

Markelle Fultz had another productive night, in his third game back and first since maiming Embiid. He finished with 10 points, shooting 50% from the field and sinking his two free throws. He also did this:

When asked post-game about Fultz’s dunk, Simmons joked, “He should’ve jumped higher. But, uh, nah he’s a freak of nature. I’m happy for him, I’m happy he’s playing well. He’s gonna be a big part of this team.”

T.J. McConnell continues to struggle, scoring only four points last night in three attempts. He is averaging a little over three points per game in the current winning streak, down from his 6.4 points per game on the season.

Dario Saric and Robert Covington both had okay nights offensively but were strong on defense. They only allowed their match-ups to score nine points combined. Covington was mainly assigned to Damion Lee and Isaiah Taylor and held the former to only 2 points in the 14 possessions in which he guarded him.

The Sixers broke an NBA record last night, with their 8th consecutive game with 30 or more assists, moving past the Golden State Warriors.