With several key Sixers players still out due to Seth Curry’s positive Covid test and the contact tracing protocols that go along with it, the Hawks proved to be too much for the shorthanded squad. The Sixers suited up 9 players in a game that had more of a preseason vibe than a regular-season clash.
After leading at the end of the first quarter 32-28, the game quickly rolled downhill and the Sixers failed to cut the deficit to single digits the entire second half. In the end, the final score was 112-94 and it was clear the lack of depth caught up to the team in this one.
Atlanta’s Style of Play
The Hawks were clearly aware of the lack of depth that their opponent had and made a conscious effort to push the pace early on. The fast-break points leaned in the Hawks’ favor by a score of 17-0 in the first half as evidence of this.
It was clear that the Sixers had the opposite plan as they took their time bringing the ball up in an effort to preserve their energy. As was seen in the Nuggets game, the Sixers also dropped into a zone for periods of time. Trae Young and the rest of the Hawks squad were seemingly too good from range for this plan and were able to use it to their advantage by finding gaps in the coverage.
There was also no answer for the lob passes to Clint Capela and this was especially evident in the last few minutes before halftime. Trae Young led all scorers with 26 and in total the Hawks shot over twice the percentage of the Sixers from behind the 3-point arc (38.6% to 22.2%). The Hawks were also able to get to the free-throw line at a much higher rate as they shot 27 free throws compared to the Sixers 13.
The necessary battle between dealing a heavy dose of Joel Embiid versus preserving his body was put on full display tonight. Early in the game, Embiid showed his dominant abilities and ended the first half with 24 points and 10 rebounds. With the game out of reach in the second quarter, Joel spent most of his time on the bench resting for the next stretch of games.
In total Embiid played 4 minutes in the second half and shot the ball zero times during that stretch. Embiid was the best player on the court by a large margin when he was out there, but there was no sense in risking injury in a game that got out of hand rather quickly.
Despite him being the leading scorer in the game, Maxey did a pretty solid job defending Trae Young throughout the game. Tyrese played a total of 31 minutes (including the entire first quarter) and finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists.
The team’s first-round selection picked up right where he left off from his phenomenal game on Saturday, looking comfortable running the offense and flashing his wide array of lay-ins around the basket throughout the game.
The Kentucky product was also pulled late in the game for the pure “garbage time” minutes which is a good sign of his increased value with the team and it seems he has rightfully earned a bigger role in the rotation when the full team returns.
Battle of Bench Guys
While the situation is far from ideal, it is still an extremely valuable opportunity to evaluate the younger players on the roster as they look to narrow down the rotation prior to the playoffs. There were some serious vibes of “The Process” days tonight as 2-way player Dakota Mathias leading the team in minutes with 39.
Isaiah Joe was the biggest bright spot of the team, scoring 18 points on 4 of 7 shooting from behind the arc. Joe looked fairly comfortable handling the ball as well and is a guy who has real potential to grow into a role for the team. The Arkansas native also showed great discipline as he played the last 3 minutes of the 3rd and the entire 4th quarter with 5 fouls, but was able to finish the game without fouling out.
On the negative side, Danny Green looked awful. While he was forced to handle the ball and play more of a guard centered role than he is used to, Green shot 0-9 from the field, 0-7 for three, and finished with a -24 +/- rating.
It is also clear Tony Bradley seems buried in the rotation which is a hit to the supposed depth at the center position that the team has put as a major priority.
It is extremely tough for any team to be expected to remain competitive given the number of key players missing that the Sixers currently face. With 4 out of their top 5 scorers in quarantine, Philly struggled to find reliable offense and many of the lower-tiered roster players looked noticeably overmatched.
There is no time for the Sixers to feel bad for themselves as they are back at it against the Heat tomorrow night and will play a total of 5 games over the next 7 days. These losses may be frustrating but these games are much more about the development of the younger bench guys until more of the starters are able to return. It may feel like the team is back in 2015 again, but as always – Trust the Damn Process.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
Lifelong Philly Sports fan and current college student at Alvernia University. Writes about Sixers and Phillies and Co-Host of Pick Swap Podcast
Twitter: @Sean_Barnard1 and @PickSwapPod