Without Embiid, Sixers turn focus to Hawks in Atlanta

By Josh Liddick, Sports Talk Philly editor 

 Tip-off: 7:30 pm ❖ Location: Atlanta, GA ❖ TV: NBCSP ❖ Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic 

Well, who knew this day would come this season? Joel Embiid had been doing almost completely perfect on injuries this season, at least to his lower body. And now, it looks as if the Sixers will need to learn how to survive without Embiid for the rest of the season and possibly for the first round of the playoffs as well.

The Philadelphia 76ers (44-30) travel to Atlanta on Friday night to face the lowly Hawks (21-54) for the second time this season. They will need to figure out a solution for the center spot without Embiid.

Embiid was involved in a collision with Markelle Fultz against the Knicks on Wednesday that resulted in a fractured orbital bone around his eye and a concussion. Embiid will undergo surgery and could miss 2 to 4 weeks.

That could mean the Sixers star center could miss the playoffs, at least the first round.

For Embiid, 2017-18 has been a highly productive year for his health. Last season was marred by poor health, a torn meniscus that left him playing only 31 games.

This season has been completely different, as Embiid has already defied all the odds and has played in 63 games. If the prognosis is correct, 63 will be the number that remains for Embiid this year.

But now the Sixers need to figure out ways to get past teams without their centerpiece on both offense and defense. The team's final eight games aren't nearly as much of a cakewalk as they appeared to be before. On Friday night, the Sixers head to Atlanta to take on the Hawks, and they still appear to have the edge.

Without Embiid, expect Head Coach Brett Brown to utilize Amir Johnson and Richaun Holmes a lot more at the 5.

The Sixers now need to play at a much quicker and efficient pace without Embiid. The gameplan has changed a little more without the help in the post. Brett Brown told the media that he "expects more 3-point shooting without Embiid."

Defense becomes even more important, and while not as elite as Embiid by any stretch, Amir Johnson still has the makes to be a key defensive player going forward. Not a solution as much of a band-aid for the problem.

To optimize the game plan of more 3-point shooting, JJ Redick and Robert Covington become even more valuable than ever before. Both players have been streaky before, but during the Sixers' eight-game winning streak, both have been somewhat on fire. 

Ben Simmons will need to step up his offensive game more than he has been, and Dario Saric, used to playing without Embiid in the lineup, just needs to perform at the level he has been playing at all season long.

We will also get to see how Embiid's minutes are allocated to even more players, including Markelle Fultz, getting ready to make his third straight appearance since October 23.

The good thing about the Hawks matchup on Friday, is that the Sixers can use this game to work out the kinks and mistakes without Embiid in the lineup. Friday is a great place for the Sixers to be in to really prepare themselves for the rest of the season.

The Sixers are only a half game away from the third seed in the Eastern Conference, but on the contrary, are also a half game away from falling to the fifth seed and out of home court advantage.

Lucky for the Sixers, the Hawks are not nearly as hot as the Sixers have been this season. In fact, Atlanta has lost its last four games, and currently hold the Eastern Conference's worst record.

The Hawks are coming off a pretty bad loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday where Karl-Anthony Towns scored a franchise-record 56 points.

Losing Dennis Schroder, as well as a multitude of key players this season doesn't bode well for the Hawks. In addition to Schroder, the Hawks are currently without the services of Kent Bazemore, Malcolm Delaney, DeAndre Bembry, Jaylen Morris, and Antonius Cleveland.

The Hawks haven't lost to the Sixers in Atlanta since April 5, 2013. More likely than not, that will change tonight.


Matchup Preview  |  March 30, 2018
Philadelphia 76ers
(44-30, 18-19 Away)
  Atlanta Hawks
(21-54, 15-22 Home)
Projected Starters
Ben Simmons Point Guard Isaiah Taylor
JJ Redick Shooting Guard Damion Lee
Robert Covington Small Forward Taurean Prince
Dario Saric Power Forward John Collins
Amir Johnson Center Dewayne Dedmon
Injury Report
Joel Embiid
  Dennis Schroder
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
  Kent Bazemore
Justin Anderson
  DeAndre' Bembry
    Antonius Cleveland
    Jaylen Morris