The Sixers (31-17) start a difficult road trip in Atlanta against Trae Young and the Hawks (12-36) Thursday night.

The Sixers come in banged up and under the weather. Al Horford (left knee soreness) will miss his fifth game of the season, while Josh Richardson remains out with a left hamstring strain. Ben Simmons is listed as probable, but he did miss shootaround with a minor upper respiratory illness. Mike Scott (right knee soreness) was listed as questionable but will be available. Scott and Tobias Harris are the only Sixers to play in every game this season.

The Hawks are also shorthanded. They’ll be without big man Alex Len (right hip flexor strain) and veteran Jabari Parker (right shoulder impingement). DeAndre' Bembry (neuritis in right hand) and Bruno Fernando (left calf strain) are listed as doubtful.

Here are the essentials:

When: 7:30 ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7 p.m.
Where: State Farm Arena
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Feed Embiid

With Len out and Fernando unlikely to play, Damian Jones might be the only true center that suits up for the Hawks Thursday. Good luck.

Joel Embiid came back from a nine-game absence Tuesday and didn’t show much rust. The All-Star center, who missed 2 ½ weeks after having surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left ringer, put up 24 points and 10 rebounds in just 26 minutes against the Warriors.

 

Expect a healthy dose of double teams. Former Sixers assistant Lloyd Pierce is the head coach in Atlanta and he’s shown a propensity to send multiple people at Embiid on every touch.

The Sixers’ ability to make shots could be a big factor. So too could be the emergence of Furkan Korkmaz and Brett Brown's "JJ" package — named after JJ Redick, of course.

All-Star Simmons?

The NBA All-Star game reserves will be announced just before tip-off. If Simmons’ name isn’t among those in the East, it would be a travesty.

In Embiid’s absence, Simmons led the Sixers to a 6-3 record. That’s no small feat when you consider the team’s recent history with Embiid out of the lineup. Simmons has averaged 21.1 points over his last 10 games.

What may be most impressive about Simmons offensively is the way he’s been not only getting to the free throw line, but also converting. He’s averaging 9.8 attempts from the line in his last four games and has made 30 of 39 (76.9 percent). 

He’s been aggressive in attacking the space opponents have given him. Simmons had difficulties with Draymond Green Tuesday, but the Hawks don’t have a former Defensive Player of the Year to throw at him.

Keeping Young in check

Young is as dynamic as any guard in the NBA offensively. He’s capable of dropping 50 points on any given night — and he may have to.

Unlike in years past, the Sixers are decently equipped to handle the pick-and-roll, especially with players as dangerous as Young. If rookie Matisse Thybulle is in the starting lineup, the best strategy may be to put him on Young and Simmons on John Collins, who is an excellent roller. The Sixers can then just switch on everything and muddy up Atlanta's offense.

This does have some makings of a trap game as the Sixers travel to Boston, Miami and Milwaukee next. The biggest goal will be to make sure Young doesn’t go off. That may be the only shot the Hawks have.

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