#501 Atlanta Hawksvs.#502 Philadelphia 76ers
Written by Chris Kubala
NBA: Saturday, October 29, 2016, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 12:30 pm ET
Line: Atlanta -6.5; Over/Under: 201
It’s a weekend afternoon matinee on the hardwood in the City of Brotherly Love. The Atlanta Hawks are on the road and travel up the east coast to clash with the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday afternoon. Atlanta opened their season with a 114-99 home win over the Wizards Thursday night. Philadelphia battled but fell 103-97 at home to the Thunder in their season opener Wednesday. The 76ers have a narrow 188-182 advantage in the all-time regular season series. Atlanta has won 10 of the last 11 meetings, including all three matchups last year.
Atlanta made some roster adjustments in the offseason, swapping out pieces for ones that, at least on paper, seem to be comparable at the very least. The Hawks put together a solid performance at home in front of their fans in their season opener. That means, for one night at least, the Hawks’ personnel moves proved to be beneficial. How things pan out in the long term will remain to be seen. Atlanta’s tilt with the Wizards was an extremely competitive game for three quarters. The Hawks held a slim 81-80 advantage before outscoring Washington 33-19 over the last 12 minutes to secure the victory. Atlanta’s defense harassed the Wizards into 42 percent shooting from the floor.
The Hawks were very efficient offensively, shooting an even 50 percent from the field. Atlanta drained 12 of 26 attempts from beyond the arc compared to a 6 of 20 shooting night for the Wizards. The Hawks were very proactive on the glass, taking a 52-40 edge in the rebounding department. The solid shooting and forcing 19 Washington turnovers helped Atlanta overcome 21 turnovers of their own in the game. Paul Millsap led the way for the Hawks with 28 points plus seven rebounds and six assists. Tim Hardaway Jr. was a spark off the bench, contributing 21 points in 23 minutes. Thabo Sefolosha was a stat sheet stuffer as he had 13 points, seven boards, five assists and five steals off the pine. Dwight Howard was a force on the glass in his Atlanta debut: he finished with just 11 points but picked up 19 rebounds, seven on the offensive glass. Dennis Schroder chipped in 14 points in his first start since signing a four year, $70 million extension. Mike Budenholzer was cautious with minutes in the opener: no one logged more than Millsap’s 31 minutes.
Philadelphia has been the laughing stock of the NBA the last few seasons. Normally that means high draft picks and a chance to jump back to respectability. If you’re the Sixers, it means you take players with tremendous talent who can’t find a way to stay healthy. The 76ers have seen this issue go on for the last couple of seasons and hope that this is the year that their youth can actually all see the floor at once. First overall pick Ben Simmons broke his foot in the final training camp scrimmage and is out indefinitely. The same sort of injury issues wiped out Nerlens Noel’s rookie season and Joel Embiid’s first TWO seasons. While the TV show says “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, that sunshine must take a detour around the Wells Fargo Center.
The 76ers had their chances Wednesday night, putting the Thunder on the ropes. Philadelphia led by six after three quarters only to be outscored 34-22 in the fourth to go down an all too familiar path to Loserville. Embiid, in his NBA debut, led the Sixers with 20 points plus seven rebounds and two blocks. Nik Stauskas contributed 13 off the pine while Sergio Rodriguez finished with 12 points and nine assists. Robert Covington and Jerami Grant each had 10 points for the 76ers in the loss. Philadelphia has to shoot better than 42.9 percent from the floor and 7 of 24 from beyond the arc to have success, especially against the better teams in the league. The 76ers need to be better on the glass as well: they lost the battle of the boards 53-43 in this one. With Noel and Simmons both out, it might be tough for Philadelphia to have the interior depth to pull that off.
The 76ers showed some promise in their loss to the Thunder. The fact remains that Philadelphia is still an extremely young team with a lot of question marks up and down the rotation. Embiid has still been in the league more years (three) than he’s played games (one) to this point. Facing an Atlanta team that has been battle tested in the playoffs and knows how to make clutch plays is a tough task. When you’re young, inexperienced and banged up, it’s too tall an order to expect to be fulfilled. Atlanta wins this one and flies to a 2-0 record.
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Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. He keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college, the NHL, the NBA and college basketball and MLB.