Sixers

Harris out with non-COVID illness for Sixers-Hawks

Sixers

To avoid sinking below .500, the Sixers need to beat the Hawks.

Here are the essentials for Friday night’s game: 

  • When: 7:30 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:45 p.m. 
  • Where: State Farm Arena 
  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia, ESPN 
  • Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app 

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Harris, important Hawks out 

As of Friday morning, it appeared the Sixers would be a far healthier team than Atlanta. 

However, Tobias Harris won't play Friday because of a non-COVID illness. He missed six games at the beginning of last month with a breakthrough case of COVID-19, as well as two late-November games with left hip soreness. Harris scored a season-low eight points Wednesday during the Sixers' loss to the Celtics. 

Two-way player Grant Riller suffered a right shoulder injury Sunday playing for the Delaware Blue Coats. Aaron Henry, Jaden Springer and Paul Reed remain with Delaware. Meanwhile, Ben Simmons (personal reasons) will miss his 22nd consecutive game. 

The Hawks will be down key players in Bogdan Bogdanovic (right ankle sprain), De’Andre Hunter (right wrist surgery), Onyeka Okongwu (right shoulder surgery) and Cam Reddish (non-COVID illness). In the absence of Bogdanovic and Reddish, former Sixer Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot started his first game for Atlanta on Monday in a win over the Pacers. 

Streaky Hawks

Since being blown out by the Sixers on Oct. 30, the Hawks have experienced a six-game losing streak and a seven-game winning streak. 

Though that win streak was recently snapped with a defeat to the Knicks, there’s no question Atlanta is playing much better basketball than the last time the team met the Sixers. The Hawks are second in offensive rating, ninth in defensive rating and second in net rating since Nov. 14, per Cleaning the Glass. 

 

Trae Young still isn’t drawing heaps of free throws, but he’s scored 30 or more points five games in a row and is at a career-best 38.8 percent from three-point range on the season. We’ll see if Tyrese Maxey, who’s shot 29.9 percent from the floor over the past five games, can break his slump against Young. Maxey played a strong game in this season’s first matchup. 

Sixers’ issues down the stretch 

The Sixers’ final possession Wednesday night was exactly like the 47 minutes and 54 seconds that preceded it. 

The team concluded an 87-point performance against the Celtics by inbounding the ball to Harris, who failed to find Joel Embiid in the paint against Jaylen Brown. Harris then struggled to create space off the dribble before passing to Georges Niang, whose corner three-point attempt at the buzzer was blocked by Robert Williams. Not pretty.

In general, the Sixers haven’t executed well late in tight games. After sporting an NBA-best 25-9 record last season in “clutch” situations — defined as the final five minutes of games in which the point differential is five or fewer — the Sixers are 6-8 in 2021-22. 

Maxey is second on the Sixers in “clutch” field-goal attempts and first in clutch assists, which points to how much was on his plate when the Sixers were shorthanded. That shouldn’t be the norm moving forward, but the Sixers' lack of healthy players and continuity for much of this season does help explain the team’s clutch problems, even though it doesn't excuse all of them.