December 3, 2023

3 storylines as 76ers face Hawks for the first time since playoff loss


AP Photo/Matt Slocum

On June 20, 2021 the 76ers lost to the Atlanta Hawks in game seven of the second round. The Sixers could’ve won that game, but that’s a different discussion for a different day.

Saturday night will be the first meeting between these two teams since that day at the Wells Fargo Center, and it’ll be a fun one.

Here’s three storylines.

Embiid to play

There will be no game-time decision Saturday night for Joel Embiid.

The Sixers’ star center was upgraded from questionable to available late Saturday morning. Unsurprisingly, he’ll suit up and play through the right knee soreness he’s been dealing with.

Ben Simmons (personal reasons) and Grant Riller (left knee injury recovery) are out for the Sixers. Atlanta’s Onyeka Okongwu is sidelined after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, while Bogdan Bogdanovic is probable with right ankle soreness. 

Late game issues

The Sixers’ issues maintaining leads have not disappeared.

In the Hawks series, they blew a 2-1 series lead, an 18-point advantage in game four, and a 26-point lead in game five. Already this season, they’ve allowed 16-1 fourth-quarter runs to the Brooklyn Nets and Detroit Pistons. 

Simmons’ absence will be major if this game is tight down the stretch. The Sixers won’t have the same concerns about a player being intentionally fouled and hesitant to shoot, but they are missing its primary defender on Trae Young. Matisse Thybulle appears to be the favorite to have that job down the stretch. 

Difficult assignment for Drummond

Once again, it’s worth noting whether the Sixers are able to hold their own during Embiid’s minutes on the bench. 

John Collins has been the Hawks’ main backup center (as well as the team’s starting power forward). He’s averaged 22 points on 75.6% shooting from the floor, 10.3 rebounds and three assists over his last three games. 

Collins is only 3-for-10 from three this season, but he’d likely be wise to force Andre Drummond away from the hoop and take open long-distance jumpers. Drummond does like being disruptive on the perimeter and taking risks in pursuit of turnovers, which could lead to some interesting moments. 

Without Okongwu, free-agent signing Gorgui Dieng is Atlanta’s other healthy big man. The 31-year-old has posted 4.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. 


When: 7:30pm ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

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