Sixers look to stifle undermanned Hawks again

NBA Basketball

The Philadelphia 76ers look to exploit the injury-inflicted offensive shortcomings of the visiting Atlanta Hawks again on Friday when they conclude a two-game series.

The Sixers hammered the Hawks 127-83 on Wednesday, handing Atlanta its seventh-worst regular-season loss in franchise history and its lowest point total of the season.

The win clinched a playoff spot for Philadelphia (41-21), which improved to 24-7 at home. The Sixers remain the No. 2 team in the Eastern Conference.

Atlanta (34-29) has lost two straight and produced its two lowest-scoring games of the season; it scored just 86 in its previous game against the Detroit Pistons. The reason is simple — the Hawks are without many of their best offensive players.

“We were literally missing most all of our shooters — Kevin (Huerter), Bogi (Bogdan Bogdanovic), Trae (Young), Tony (Snell). It’s tough. It’s a tough uphill battle, but at the end of the day I feel like we could have definitely competed harder out there,” said Atlanta forward John Collins.

Young, the team’s leading scorer, is on the road trip — he got a technical foul in street clothes on Wednesday — but is still recovering from the left ankle sprain that’s caused him to miss four straight games. Young is likely out, as is Snell (right ankle sprain). Huerter (left shoulder sprain) and Bogdanovic (left hamstring soreness) are questionable.

“Hopefully we’ll have some bodies and we’ll play with more intensity, better execution, and hopefully the result is different,” said Atlanta coach Nate McMillan.

Because of the one-sided nature of Wednesday’s game, the Sixers were able to rest their starters much of the second half. Ben Simmons played only 16 minutes and the other four starters played no more than 26. Six reserves played at least 13 minutes.

The Sixers were playing with the full starting lineup for only the 25th time this season. Philadelphia improved to 21-4 when the starting lineup is Simmons, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Danny Green and Seth Curry.

Philadelphia became the second team in the East to clinch a playoff spot. It is the fourth straight season for the Sixers to reach the postseason, the first time that has happened since 1999-2003, when Allen Iverson led them to five straight appearances.

“Coming into the season, our goal was to win a championship,” Embiid said. “There are a lot of steps to get there, but we have everything we need to make it happen.”

Harris said, “We would have loved to be the first team to clinch the playoffs. We’re not dwelling on that, but this is Philadelphia basketball, where greatness is expected from our fans and us as a group. We understand that. We’re not celebrating for clinching the playoffs.”

Curry, who is averaging 12.2 points this season, scored 20 points Wednesday. Embiid leads the team with 29.5 points and 10.9 rebounds, while Harris averages 20 points and 7.1 rebounds.

Friday’s game will the final regular-season meeting between the two teams. The clubs have split two games, with Atlanta winning 112-94 on Jan. 11.

–Field Level Media

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