Following Philadelphia’s extremely disappointing loss in Dallas two nights ago, the team will look to put forth a better effort tonight in Atlanta. Led by former Sixers assistant coach Lloyd Pierce, the Hawks have been a thorn in the Sixers’ side this season. Philadelphia has dropped two of the three previous meetings between the clubs, including a 129-127 Atlanta win less than two weeks ago. In a contest that broke the Sixers’ six-game winning streak, Trae Young recorded game-highs of 32 points and 11 assists, while also hitting the game-winning floater in the final second.
While the Sixers are not the only team to fall victim to a Trae game-winner, the loss once again shined a light on the team’s difficulty in defending smaller, quicker guards like Young. With just five games left in the regular season, Philadelphia demonstrating some growth in that area would help Sixers fans feel a tad more comfortable heading into the postseason. However, with Joel Embiid out and Jimmy Butler listed as questionable (but likely also taking a seat), the Sixers will be even more hard-pressed to deal with the young man making a late push to surpass Luke Doncic for Rookie of the Year honors.
Fortunately for the Sixers, the Hawks not only had to play in San Antonio last night, but are missing a couple rotational players as well. Former Sixers center Dewayne Dedmon was recently announced as out for the season with left ankle soreness. He shot exactly 7-of-11 from the field in each of the teams’ last two meetings, combining to shoot 5-of-10 from behind the arc. That’s one less floor-spacing big man Philadelphia will have to contend with tonight. Additionally, Taurean Prince, who sank four 3s against the Sixers the last time out, has not played in over a week with a foot injury. He remains listed as day-to-day.
Nevertheless, between Young, emerging young big man John Collins (who should be fresh after receiving a DNP-Rest for last night’s Spurs game, and young wings like Kevin Huerter and DeAndre’ Bembry, the Hawks still have plenty of firepower. To pull out the win on the road, the Sixers will need a more consistent effort from their supporting cast.
Rookie Jonah Bolden has started each of the last two games in place of Embiid, demonstrating the up-and-down nature of relying on an unproven player. Saturday against Minnesota, he had a career game with 19 points and five made 3s. Then, Monday against the Mavericks, he was a complete non-factor in shooting 1-of-6 from the field for two points.
Likewise, many people (myself included) have been calling for Brett Brown to take a longer look at rookie Shake Milton for a potential deep rotation role in the playoffs. Milton’s 0-of-4 game from the field in Dallas (with terrible defense to boot) makes us look foolish for even bringing it up.
Undoubtedly tonight, Tobias Harris will once again serve as a focal point of the offense, JJ Redick will need to hit his shots, and Ben Simmons must be a two-way force, but the Sixers also require some contributions from guys further down the depth chart. We’ll see if they receive that help and pull out the victory. A win tonight combined with a Boston loss against the Heat would guarantee the Sixers the 3-seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Atlanta Hawks
When: 7:30 pm EST
Where: State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic