Ersan Ilyasova scored 21 points off the bench as the 76ers cruised to their ninth straight victory, defeating the Atlanta Hawks 101-91 on the road Friday night.
With Joel Embiid out for the foreseeable future with a broken orbital bone that requires surgery, Head Coach Brett Brown was forced to tinker with his lineup. In place of Embiid, Amir Johnson got the start, but Brown used a combination of Johnson, Ilyasova and Dario Saric to fill the void.
Despite not starting, Ilyasova came off the bench five minutes into the game and contributed immediately for the 76ers in the first quarter. In his near seven minutes of first quarter action, Ilyasova scored 11 points on four of six shooting. While he only knocked down two of his eight three point attempts, Ilyasova was effective in 30 game minutes, finishing with a team-high 21 points on an 8-16 shooting night.
Ben Simmons was also pertinent in the first quarter, producing seven points, six assists and four rebounds in the first 12 minutes of the game. Despite playing just 27 minutes Friday night, Simmons notched his 11th triple-double of the season, finishing the night with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. Those numbers likely could have been higher had Simmons played more in the final frame.
After one quarter of play, the 76ers and Hawks remained close, as Philadelphia held a three point lead, 30-27.
The Philadelphia defensive prowess typically reserved for the third quarter came out earlier than usual Monday night, as the 76ers went into lock down mode in the second quarter. The Hawks found the scoreboard 1:30 into the second quarter when Miles Plumlee grabbed two off an alley oop pass from Isaiah Taylor. In the next seven minutes of action, the Hawks knocked down precisely the same amount of baskets, scoring just one time from the field on a Dewayne Dedmon dunk. It wouldn’t be until the 3:24 remaining mark in the second quarter that the Hawks would score another basket. Over that time period, Atlanta missed 12 of 13 shots from the field. In total, the Hawks scored just 14 second quarter points.
Over that time frame, the 76ers did little to capitalize, however, as they struggled from the field as well. The 76ers would stretch their lead to nine, 43-34, but made just five baskets over the five minute Atlanta drought. The 76ers were stout defensively in the second, but were not efficient offensively, as it was evident that Joel Embiid’s absence was playing a factor. After scoring 11 points in the first quarter, Ersan Ilyasova failed to find the scoreboard in the second quarter.
Philadelphia scored just 17 points in the second quarter, extending their lead to six heading into halftime, 47-41.
What the 76ers lacked in the second quarter offensively was found in bunches as the second half began. After Damion Lee got the scoring started in the third for the Hawks, the 76ers would score 11 of the next 13 points, extending their lead to 12, 58-46. Dario Saric, who struggled from the field Friday night, found all six of his points over this run, knocking down a pair of threes. In 26 minutes, Saric went 2-10 from the field, including 2-7 from beyond the arc.
The aforementioned Lee was stellar in the third quarter, scoring the first ten points of the quarter for the Hawks. Lee finished with a team-high 20 points on 8-17 shooting.
In the third quarter, the 76ers have been among the league’s elite in scoring differential. Since March 15, that number has been a staggering +12.9, on average, and is among the reasons as to why Philadelphia has been able to rest its starters late in games. This matchup would be no exception, as the 76ers defeated the Hawks in the third quarter 39-18, a +21 differential. That number can be attributed to the stifling defense of the second quarter carrying over into the second half. The Hawks shot 6-22 from the field and turned the ball over numerous times in the third quarter, extending the Philadelphia lead to 27, 86-59, as the two teams entered the final quarter.
The 76ers were able to rest their starters in the final frame with the big lead. As a result, the fourth quarter was lopsided, as Atlanta took control of the game, winning the final frame 32-15. The 17 point differential for the Hawks allowed them to cut the 76er lead to ten before the final whistle, but that number pales in comparison to the game itself.
Markelle Fultz had a nice fourth quarter, scoring six of his game ten points in the final frame. Fultz saw a small uptick in minutes Friday night, logging 19 minutes in the game. He finished with those ten points on an effective 4-8 shooting night.
Despite allowing 32 fourth quarter points, the 76ers coasted to the 101-91 victory over Atlanta, picking up their ninth win in a row in the process. The win improves the 76ers’ record to 45-30 on the season. A 107-102 victory by the Cleveland Cavaliers over the New Orleans Pelicans keeps the 76ers a half game back of Cleveland for the three seed in the Eastern Conference. The 76ers remain a half game ahead of the Indiana Pacers, who sit in the fifth seed, but are now four games above the sixth seeded Washington Wizards.
The 76ers will be back on the court Sunday afternoon when they travel to Charlotte to take on the Hornets. Tip off is set for 1 p.m., and you can catch all the action on 97.5 The Fanatic!
-By Tyler Zulli