Sixers-Hawks 5 things: Looking to keep win streak alive without Joel Embiid

Sixers-Hawks 5 things: Looking to keep win streak alive without Joel Embiid

Sixers (15-26) at Hawks (25-18)
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

Coming off a thrilling comeback win over the Trail Blazers on Friday, the Sixers travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks at Phillips Arena in the second game of a back-to-back. 

1. Going streaking
It's been a long time since the Sixers have had anything resembling a winning streak. No longer is that the case, as the Sixers have won three straight games, with Friday's win capping their fifth-straight home win. 

The Sixers have also won eight of their last 10 games — with only the Warriors posting a better record during that span — and are playing with a confidence and energy that hasn't been seen in Philly for years. 

One streak they'll try to end, however, is their recent losing streak to the Hawks, as the Sixers haven't beaten Atlanta in six straight matchups.

2. Injury scare
Fans at the Wells Fargo Center held their breath Friday night as Joel Embiid came down awkwardly on his left knee and came up limping. 

Embiid ran to the locker room on his own and was cleared to return to the game, though he never did. He was diagnosed with a left knee contusion and said after the game that everything was fine.

"I'm great," he said. "The knee's fine. They did an MRI and stuff, and everything looked good."

Despite not having Embiid for the final minutes of Friday's game, the Sixers were able to pull together and rally for a 93-92 win over the Blazers. 

Injury precaution aside, Embiid won't travel with the Sixers to Atlanta, as he was scheduled to miss the game against the Hawks because it was the second game of a back-to-back. 

3. Playoffs?
Hey, crazier things have happened, so let's not rule this one out. 

With the Sixers in the midst of their hottest stretch in recent years, Embiid has the team and city thinking playoffs. After notching yet another win Friday night, the Sixers are just 4½ games back from the eighth seed in the East. 

"I look at it every day," Embiid said Friday. "We’re coming for those playoff spots. We’re going to keep on getting better, keep working and winning games."

If the wins actually do keep coming, this might be something to keep an eye on as we get deeper into the season. 

4. Tall task 
With Embiid scheduled to miss Saturday's game against the Hawks, the Sixers will lean on Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel to carry the load in place of their superstar center. 

A night after facing a dynamic backcourt featuring Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, the Sixers will turn their attention to the dominant frontcourt duo of Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard. 

Millsap comes in averaging 17.8 points and 8.1 rebounds, while Howard averages 13.7 points and an incredible 13 rebounds per game. Without Embiid, the Sixers might have a hard time stopping Millsap and Howard from having their way in the paint. 
 
5. This and that
• The Sixers have made three go-ahead field goals in the final five seconds of the fourth quarter/OT this season — the most in the NBA.

• The Sixers have 15 wins at the halfway point of the season. They had just 10 wins total all of last season. 

• Jahlil Okafor last played on Jan. 14 against the Wizards, posting 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the floor. 

• The Sixers are 13-17 with Embiid, but just 2-9 without him. 

Penn rides trio of freshmen to win over rival Drexel

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USA Today Images

Penn rides trio of freshmen to win over rival Drexel

BOX SCORE

With just 0.6 miles separating the Daskalakis Athletic Center and the Palestra, "The Battle of 33rd Street" is known as the closest geographical rivalry in U.S. college sports. For both Drexel and Penn, not only is a win or loss on the line, but city bragging rights as well, as the two schools share a physical border with one another. 

After waiting a long nine years dating back to the 2007-08 season, Penn was finally able to snap Drexel’s six-game win streak in the series, as the Quakers topped the Dragons, 75-67, on Wednesday night (see Instant Replay).

Youth was the key to success for the Quakers as second-year head coach Steve Donahue elected to start freshmen guards Ryan Betley and Devon Goodman alongside freshman star forward A.J. Brodeur. 

“Everything I do is performance-based,” Donahue said. “Who deserves it, who plays hard in practice and I try to keep it that way and I think until we start winning consistently and guys start earning those spots and help us consistently win, then we're going to try to do this as a team. “

Betley, who suffered a broken hand prior to the season, was not only making his first collegiate start but was playing in his first game of the season. He scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds in 26 minutes of action, while Brodeur led the way with 19 points. Goodman chipped in three points.

“It was a great feeling,” Betley said. “There’s nothing better than playing here and representing my school. It’s a good confidence booster, my first game playing in the Palestra, there’s nothing better than that.”

Donahue said that he felt coming into this game, the Quakers needed to get a boost from somewhere. Throwing Betley into the starting lineup was just the right spark.

 “The little things Ryan does – he played 26 minutes and he had seven rebounds – I thought he could give us a little more aggressiveness in the game,” Donahue said. “When Ryan came back from the hand injury, he was as good as he was when he left. I just think he gives us something that we don’t have right now, another scorer at that size.”

With Betley and Goodman in the mix, the Quakers have the ability to be dangerous in the Ivy League, and they showed that Wednesday night by beating Drexel. 

Penn started the game off hot, shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc and 43.8 percent from the floor in the first half.  The Quakers led for all but 13 seconds of the first half, and had the lead for 38 minutes total in the game. 

However, despite trailing the entire game, Drexel staged a furious comeback attempt led by junior Miles Overton. Trailing by five with just under two minutes remaining, Overton nailed a three from the top of the key to put the Dragons within two. 

It was a stellar defensive effort that ended up being  the key to Penn’s victory. The Quakers were active on the defensive end right from the start, forcing 17 Drexel turnovers, including a late steal by Darnell Foreman to seal the victory. 

For a team that features 11 underclassmen, six of which are freshmen, the young Quakers squad kept its composure and was able to clamp down in the final seconds to stop Drexel’s comeback bid. 

Despite the victory, Donahue feels his team has a long way to go before it can be mentioned in the tops of the Ivy League. 

“Here’s the good thing about this year, there’s a conference tournament at the end of this,” Donahue said. “I don’t think we’re there yet. I love where our defense is at, I love our toughness, I love our grittiness and I think were all-in. Now I have to get better execution on the offensive end, a little more flow to our game and a little more confidence on that side of the ball so we don’t have five- to 10-minute lulls that we occasionally have.”

Donahue is just now starting to see the full extent of his first recruiting class, and so far, he likes what he sees. 

“I think we’re still in the process of building this program back to where I think it can be,” Donahue said. “I think we have the makings of a terrific, young nucleus and were going to try and do that every year.

“I try to make it simple: recruit good kids who help you recruit good players, who help you recruit better players and that’s what we’re going to try to do and build it that way.”

Instant Replay: Penn 75, Drexel 67

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Courtesy of Penn Athletics

Instant Replay: Penn 75, Drexel 67

BOX SCORE

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- It certainly wasn't easy, but Penn finally finds itself on the winning end of 'The Battle of 33rd Street.' 

On Wednesday night at the Palestra, the Quakers found a way to ease past Drexel, 75-67, to claim their first win in nine years against their neighboring rival.

The win gives Penn its first City 6 win of the season, after the Quakers fell earlier this season to both No. 1 Villanova and Temple. 

Penn improves to 5-5 on the season while Drexel fell to 6-7.  

Turning point
With 30 seconds left in the game and Penn clinging to a two-point lead, freshman AJ Brodeur managed to get a tough layup to go, putting Penn up by four. 

On the following possession, a Penn steal and Drexel foul put Matt MacDonald at the line for the Quakers. MacDonald knocked down both free throws, giving Penn a 73-67 lead and putting the game out of reach. 

Big men on campus
Brodeur -- who came in averaging 13.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game -- carried the load for the Quakers, scoring 19 points and grabbing six rebounds. 

Junior Darnell Foreman added 12 points and senior Matt Howard added 10 for the Quakers. 

Junior guard Miles Overton led the way for the Dragons with 19 points off the bench. 

Lead time
Penn dominated the game from start to finish, leading for nearly the entire 40 minutes. The Quakers were out in front for 38 minutes, while the Dragons held a lead for just 13 seconds in the first half. 

All-time series
This was the 26th meeting between the two Big 5 schools. Penn leads the all-time series, 16-10. The Quakers snapped Drexel's six-game win streak in the matchup, dating back to the 2007-08 season.

Up next
Drexel opens up CAA play on the road against James Madison on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Penn plays host to Fairfield on Friday at 4 p.m. at the Palestra.