ATLANTA — The Sixers began this Joel Embiid-less chapter of the regular season with a victory.
They won their ninth straight game by beating the Hawks, 101-91, Friday at Philips Arena. The Sixers improved to 45-30, while the Hawks dropped to 21-55.
• Brett Brown finagled with different lineups, substituting three and four players at a time, to get looks at rotations that could be successful in Embiid’s absence. Amir Johnson (starter), Richaun Holmes, Ersan Ilyasova and Dario Saric all are candidates to play the five while Embiid is sidelined with a concussion and left eye orbital fracture.
“To fill in for Joel Embiid is obviously a difficult task,” Brown said.
• Former Hawk Ilyasova looked awfully comfortable back in Philips Arena and stepped up big time. He scored 11 points in the first quarter alone, finishing with a team-high 21 points and 16 rebounds on the night.
“I think him playing at the five is a challenge for other teams,” Brown said. “I really feel like he can cause problems defensively for them with his ability to step out and stretch the floor.”
Johnson was extra aggressive on the defensive end, where Brown said the Sixers will need to be “perfect.” The veteran grabbed 11 rebounds, nearly tripling his season average. Saric, who is expected to have a bigger offensive role without Embiid, actually struggled (six points, 2 for 7 from three).
• Markelle Fultz scored 10 points off 4 for 8 field goal shooting in 19 minutes. These are two points people will be talking about this weekend:
THROW IT DOWN, YOUNG FELLA.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) March 31, 2018
Markelle slams it down for a big second bucket of the game as the Sixers lead 32-29. pic.twitter.com/dySwD5tUNB
• #TripleDoubleWatch: Ben Simmons is up to 11 on the season after posting 13 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. Once again, he reached this mark in the third quarter. The only two players this season with more triple-doubles? Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. Not bad company.
• The Sixers needed some time to pull away with the game. The Hawks hung in to start, down by three after the first quarter and six at halftime before the Sixers outscored them 39-18 in the third. The Hawks also cut the Sixers’ 28-point lead late in the fourth to 10 with the starters out.
“I think we got off to a rough start,” Simmons said. “Third quarter really brought it back. We had a lot of open shots, just didn’t fall. I think it would’ve been a different game if they did fall. But I think overall, solid. We can do a lot better, though.”
Remember when the Sixers ignored their losing record and tried to disrupt playoff-bound opponents? That's how the Hawks are playing right now.— Jessica Camerato (@JessicaCamerato) March 31, 2018
• Robert Covington (2 for 9 from long range) passed Kyle Korver for second place on the Sixers’ three-pointers made list. He trails only Allen Iverson, who holds the lead by more than 200 treys.
• This was a game impacted by injuries on both sides. The Hawks’ leading scorer Dennis Schroder was shut down for the season Friday because of a left ankle sprain. Kent Bazemore is sidelined by a right knee bone bruise. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot remains out for the Sixers with right knee patellar tendinitis.
• Up next: The Sixers will travel Friday night to Charlotte to take on the Hornets (34-42) Sunday afternoon. Embiid posted a 25-point, 20-rebound double-double against the Hornets in their last meeting.