The Sixers’ medical staff did not have a banner weekend. Sure, injuries happen. But the plan to have Ben Simmons go to the locker room for treatment whenever he wasn’t in the game Saturday? Well, it’s not a surprise he left the proceedings entirely after five minutes. Now he’s headed for an MRI for his back. Maybe a guy just shouldn’t be playing in a February game if things are bad enough that he can’t sit on the bench in-between stints on the court.
Then, you had Tobias Harris visibly look to injure his knee during the game, only to finish with a team-high 31 minutes. He is now doubtful tonight with that knee. Sitting Tobi for the rest of the game after it happened Saturday may not have impacted his availability tonight at all, but it still would have been the more prudent decision, in my opinion. It’s crazy how the Sixers can cycle through entirely new medical staffs, but these same types of shortsighted decisions still keep being made.
Well, at least the Sixers return home tonight, where they are 26-2 on the season. They welcome in the Atlanta Hawks for the first time in Philadelphia during this current campaign. The Sixers struggled with the Hawks in the first two games down in Georgia, barely securing a two-point road in the first week of the season (although on the road-adjusted scale, maybe that’s a blowout victory), and then losing by 10 in late January when Trae Young went off for 39 points and 18 assists.
They’ll not have any easier of a time containing Atlanta’s All-Star point guard with Simmons out; Josh Richardson really needs to step up and have himself an impact game. He and Matisse Thybulle will likely share defensive duties on Young, but J-Rich will also have some table-setting responsibilities on offense. He, Alec Burks, and probably Raul Neto will stitch together controls of Philadelphia’s offensive attack with Ben sidelined.
Without Ben and Tobi, even more of the scoring burden falls upon Joel Embiid. He should have an easier time of things than Saturday’s 5-of-18 line against one of the best defensive teams in the league. Atlanta’s 113.8 defensive rating is third-worst in the NBA, and with big acquisition Clint Capela still sidelined with plantar fascitis, it’s still former Sixer Dewayne Dedmon and some combination of Damian Jones and Bruno Fernando manning the middle (the Hawks are not comfortable with 6-foot-9 John Collins at the five against Embiid). Dedmon could be bothersome with his ability to stretch the floor, but Joel should be able to have his way on the interior. The Sixers will need a performance from him similar to what we saw Thursday against Brooklyn.
Significantly short-staffed among the starting unit, and facing the sort of waterbug point guard they’ve often struggled against in the past, the Sixers are in somewhat of a tough spot. Hopefully, the mystical powers of being back within the confines of the 215 area code are enough to carry the day for Philadelphia.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Atlanta Hawks
When: 7:00 pm ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBA TV
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Philadelphia: Ben Simmons (out - back); Tobias Harris (doubtful - knee)
Alanta: Clint Capela (out - plantar fascitis); Skal Labissiere (out - knee); DeAndre Bembry (out - abdominal pain)