The Philadelphia 76ers suffered a tough one-point loss in Boston on Wednesday night. With that defeat, they picked up their 11th loss of the year, making themselves one loss away from having a losing record for the first time this season.
With a .500 record, the Sixers had an opportunity to avoid falling into a two-game slump with a matchup against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night. When the Sixers and the Hawks met in South Philly earlier this year, the Sixers were red-hot and picked up a dominant win in front of their home crowd.
Heading into Friday's game, the tables were turned. Atlanta won eight of their last ten games before facing Philly again. Meanwhile, the Sixers were 3-7 in their previous ten games before taking Atlanta. The Sixers got off to an impressive start on Friday night by outscoring the Hawks 31-22 in the first quarter of action.
But then Atlanta came alive and dominated the 76ers and secured an eight-point lead before heading into the half. The Sixers and the Hawks were neck and neck throughout the third quarter, but Atlanta's second-quarter dominance held up and allowed the Hawks to have a comfortable lead heading into the final quarter.
However, they couldn't quite close the game out. As the Sixers locked in defensively and had a strong offensive showing in the final 12 minutes of the game, they outscored the Hawks 20-9 and picked up a 98-96 win on the road. With that victory, the Sixers advance to 12-11 on the year.
Now, let's observe the Sixers' individual player performances.
The veteran forward seemingly didn't have a cap on his minutes for the first time in a long time on Friday night. Checking in for 33 minutes, Green was a plus-eight on the floor and accounted for ten points. It wasn't a flashy performance, but it was a sneaky good one for Green on Friday night.
With Tobias Harris out of the lineup due to a non-COVID illness, Georges Niang picked up his fifth start of the year. Lately, he hasn't been all that efficient from the field, but Niang was a reliable shooter in Atlanta. In a little under 30 minutes of action, Niang put up eight shots, five of which were from beyond the arc. The veteran forward knocked down three of his five three-point attempts and totaled for 13 points.
The four-time All-Star has struggled a lot over the last two games. And in the first half, it seemed the bad trend would continue on Friday night for Embiid. In his first 18 minutes on the court, Embiid shot just 30-percent from the field, with half of his scoring production coming from the free-throw line. In the third quarter, Embiid turned things around and put his team on his back. Going 5-4 from the field, he collected ten points in six minutes. Then in the fourth quarter, Embiid scored six of Philly's 20 points, hitting clutch shots. Sure, he started slow and was gassed in the second half, but the All-Star big man willed his team to victory on Friday.
The starting shooting guard continues to be a bright spot for the Sixers on the offensive side of the ball. Curry was a perfect 5-5 from the field in the first quarter, scoring 11 points. While he quieted down in the second and third quarters, Curry hit a three in the fourth quarter and contributed to five points in his final six minutes to wrap up the game with 18 points, knocking down 50-percent of his field-goal attempts and threes on Friday night.
Ever since the return of Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey has struggled to produce in the scoring department. He got up ten shots on Friday and collected 11 points. He's surely taken a backseat to Embiid and Curry over the last few games, but that was to be expected. At least Maxey continues to play aggressively and takes care of the ball as he finished the night with zero turnovers.
In Boston, it seemed Furkan Korkmaz was finally falling out of favor with Doc Rivers as he played in a season-low of six minutes. On Friday night, Korkmaz got a chunk of his regular minutes back as he checked in for 16 minutes. It seems his low-minute night paid off as Korkmaz had one of his best performances in a while. He knocked down four of his six shot attempts for nine points. It won't be enough to guarantee him significant minutes off the bench moving forward, but it's a step in the right direction.
At first, Milton was off to a good start on Friday night and was playing as well as he's been playing lately. But the veteran guard struggled after a decent first quarter. After hitting both of his shots in his first four minutes, Milton nearly went scoreless for the rest of the night as he collected just one more point off of a pair of free-throw attempts in the second quarter. He wrapped up the game as minus-15, scoring just five points in nearly 22 minutes of action.
The veteran big man wrapped up the night with seven rebounds and four points. Lately, Drummond's been a nice spark off the bench for the Sixers, but he struggled on the defensive end on Friday. Fortunately, Embiid was able to check-in for over 35 minutes, and the Sixers didn't have to rely on his backup as much as he was dominant in the second half.
It was clear that Doc Rivers favored offensive spacing over defense early in Atlanta as Thybulle hardly played in the first quarter. But down the stretch, he needed Thybulle to flash defensive dominance and bother the Hawks, and it worked. The Sixers held Atlanta to just eight points in the final 12 minutes of action. Of course, Thybulle played in 10 of those minutes.