The Atlanta Hawks severed the final remaining strings on the Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons era, sending the Philadelphia 76ers home in seven games from last spring’s Eastern Conference Semifinals. Since then, Simmons has listed more houses for sale than played minutes for the Sixers, as we await the conclusion of his saga, which will almost assuredly result with Ben in a different uniform. As for the teammates he left behind, they currently sit at 11-11, losers of nine of their last 12 games, and the good vibes from early in the season are officially gone.
Things are heading in the other direction for the Hawks. After a tough start to the season, the Hawks have won eight of their last nine games to climb past the Sixers in the standings at 12-10 on the year. Trae Young is 23 years old and just passed Larry Bird to sit 15th on the all-time list of 30-point, 10-assist games. He is currently 4th in the NBA scoring 26.3 points per game, and third in the league at 9.1 assists per game.
Of course, while Trae is the main fuel for Atlanta’s offensive engine, the team has a multitude of terrific parts around him. John Collins can jump to outer space for highlight-reel dunks, but is also shooting 40 percent from 3, enabling him to coexist alongside center Clint Capela. That’s important because Capela anchors the defense at 1.5 blocks per game, and ranks third in the league in rebounding (12.5 boards per contest).
We could go on and on praising the Hawks’ depth, which helps them overcome a few of their recent injuries. De’Andre Hunter suffered a wrist injury requiring surgery and will be out about two months. Bogdan Bogdanovic recently sprained his ankle and will be out a couple weeks. Cam Reddish has a minor wrist issue and is listed as questionable for tonight’s game. The Sixers have certainly dealt with their share of injuries and illnesses this season, so they’re not feeling sorry for anyone else.
The last time these teams met, the Sixers got a sliver of revenge with a 122-94 win in Philadelphia at the end of October. Both teams were playing differently then, though, and the Sixers have been particularly rough to watch lately. Wednesday’s game in Boston was a time machine to a bygone era where neither team reached 90 points. Before that, they barely beat a last-place Magic team and lost to the Wolves in double overtime. Embiid is 7-of-33 from the field across his past two games and Tyrese Maxey is even worse at 5-of-25. To his credit, Maxey did a terrific job defending Young in the earlier meeting (Trae had just 13 points). Could there be a repeat?
A road win against a surging Hawks club would be a great way to spark a turnaround. Follow along with us tonight and we’ll see if the Sixers’ play takes a turn for the better.