Games are being postponed here and there across the NBA and teams are running out skeleton crews due to the large numbers of players entering COVID-19 health and safety protocols. 40-year-old Joe Johnson will be suiting up as a Boston Celtic for the first time since 2002. Check your voicemail — you could be a temporary replacement player!
Tonight’s contest between the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks is slated to happen, but both teams will have multiple rotation players unavailable. Danny Green, Georges Niang, Andre Drummond, and Shake Milton are all in the protocols for the Sixers, while Atlanta is even worse off with Trae Young, Danilo Gallinari, Clint Capela, Lou Williams, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot all on the list. Additionally, the Hawks have De’Andre Hunter and Solomon Hill sidelined with long-term injuries. In better news for the Sixers, there is optimism for Tyrese Maxey (quad bruise), Furkan Korkmaz (non-COVID illness), and Jaden Springer (concussion) all to be available tonight.
The shorthanded Sixers rallied together for one of the most satisfying wins of the season Monday, a 108-103 victory over the Celtics. Joel Embiid was a self-proclaimed monster with 41 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists, and no matter what else is going on, if the Sixers have Embiid, they have a chance. It helps when Seth Curry and Tobias Harris go 6-of-6 from downtown and score a combined 51 points, though. Curry has been consistently excellent all season long, but Harris returning to his form from last regular season would be hugely beneficial.
Of course, there’s also no guarantees with this club. Philadelphia was relatively healthy and facing decimated Miami and Brooklyn rosters last week, and lost both those games. Still, you have to like the Sixers’ odds with Atlanta missing star Trae Young and Clint Capela, the Hawks’ best defender against Embiid. Additionally, the Sixers have the rest advantage, with the Hawks having played host to the Magic last night in Atlanta, a 104-98 win for Orlando.
Tonight will already be the third and final meeting between these two teams this season. The Sixers won each of the previous matchups, a 122-94 win in Philadelphia in October, and a 98-96 nailbiter in Atlanta earlier this month. Given the absences for both teams, it’s difficult to apply much of those previous meetings to tonight’s contest.
Newcomer Myles Powell saw court time in Boston, and rookie Aaron Henry also appeared in just his second career game. Veteran Tyler Johnson could make his Sixers debut tonight after officially signing his 10-day contract with the club. Tyler Johnson versus Lance Stephenson likely wasn’t on anyone’s radar when you looked at this game on the schedule a couple weeks ago, but that’s life in 2021. We’ll see if the Sixers can utilize their slight health and scheduling advantages tonight and move to 17-15 on the season.