The Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks should have their two big stars back at full strength when the Eastern Conference rivals meet for the first time this season on Thursday in Atlanta.
The Sixers got Joel Embiid back on Monday after he missed three games with the flu. Atlanta got Trae Young back on Wednesday after he missed a game with a sprained right shin. Both should be back in form when the teams play each other for the first of two consecutive games; they meet again on Saturday in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia won two of the three meetings last season, including a 98-96 win in Atlanta on Dec. 3, 2021. In that game, Embiid had 28 points and 12 rebounds; Young had 25 points and 10 assists.
Embiid showed no effects from the layoff on Monday in a 100-88 win over the Phoenix Suns. He posted 33 points and 10 rebounds — his fourth double-double of the season — and immediately declared that the season had officially started.
“Our season began today,” Embiid said. “Everything before tonight didn’t count. The Phillies season is over, and I enjoyed watching them (reach the World Series), and this was our first game since then, so this was our first game of the season.”
In 13 career games against Atlanta, Embiid is averaging 23.6 points and 9.5 rebounds.
Atlanta is hopeful that Young will rebound from a horrific 10-for-28 shooting night against Utah in the 125-119 loss on Wednesday.
“I thought Trae was a little winded, you know, being off the last couple of days,” Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said. “He hasn’t been able to do much running, nursing that muscle. I thought he looked a little winded so we tried to give him a sub early in the second or third quarter to give him a breather.”
The Sixers remain without point guard James Harden (tendon strain in right foot) and have been nurturing Tyrese Maxey at the position. Maxey is averaging 23.6 points and 4.0 assists. He had back-to-back 30-point games but scored just 11 against Phoenix.
“When I was playing, if a player wasn’t where he’s supposed to be, I’d pull it back out and tell my teammate where to go,” Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said. “Tyrese isn’t seeing (that) yet. He’ll still try to make the play and make a turnover. Those are the little things you have to live with right now.”
The young Atlanta bench also had difficulty staying with Utah on Wednesday. The Atlanta reserves were outscored 43-19 after outscoring the Milwaukee reserves 59-33 on Monday.
“You’ve got to play better,” McMillan said. “I would say both units have got to play better.”
The Sixers bench got a season-high 21 points on seven 3-pointers from Georges Niang on Monday.
Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris said, “Every time they made a run, Georges was there to make a big shot. Especially in the fourth quarter. He would stretch the lead from six to nine or seven to 10 and eventually it deflated them.”
It will be Atlanta’s second back-to-back of the season. They split the first one on the road, beating Detroit and losing to Milwaukee.
–Field Level Media