By Connor Thomas
A battered Sixers team travels to Atlanta tonight to take on the Hawks in a game where Philadelphia once again will be shorthanded when they take the floor. If you missed the news over the weekend, the Sixers roster was decimated by the effects of guard Seth Curry’s positive COVID test and the contact tracing that followed. As a result of numerous players being unable to play, the team took the floor against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday with only 8 active players, the minimum required by the NBA to compete in a game. In fact, one of the Sixers who dressed, Mike Scott, did not see any playing time as he continues to deal with a lower body injury. This preview would be War and Peace length if we were to go through everything wrong with the NBA’s COVID protocols, but the fact of the matter is, the Houston Rockets had their opening game postponed for a similar situation, and just yesterday, the Boston Celtics were granted reprieve from having to play shorthanded against the Miami Heat as a result of numerous ineligible players. It is an absolute fact that the NBA has not treated the Sixers with the same standards that they have awarded other teams in the league, and Philadelphia has suffered as a result.
Deep breath. Ok, now we’re on to Atlanta. The Hawks enter Monday night’s game sporting a sub .500 record at 4-5, good for 11th in the East. Led by All-Star Guard Trae Young, who is averaging 24.7 points, Atlanta has boasted a solid offense with 5 players averaging double figures. Their issues lie on the other end of the floor, as their defense has had trouble containing teams this year, being in the bottom half of the league in points allowed and bottom third of the league in turnovers forced. It’s important also to note that the Hawks have lost their last 4 games, so they will be desperate to get back in the win column at home tonight. The Sixers are having issues of their own, and not just with the COVID related problems already mentioned. The Sixers have dropped back to back games for the first time this season, and just lost their first game at the Wells Fargo Center in over a calendar year. After falling on the road to a Brooklyn Nets team without Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving, and at home in the aforementioned lopsided game Saturday against the Denver Nuggets, the Sixers will once again be short of full strength tonight as Ben Simmons did not travel to Atlanta with the team and instead will rest a concerning knee injury. Joel Embiid should be available, but with 7 players that were forced to shoulder heavy minutes on Saturday, it will be a tall task for the Sixers to hang with a Hawks team that has only played once in the last 5 days.
The offensive matchup to watch for the Sixers will be Tyrese Maxey against Atlanta’s guards. Maxey had a breakout performance Saturday, scoring a game high 39 points against Denver and cementing himself as one of the rookies to watch in the NBA this year. Maxey looked to have all the makings of a great scorer on Saturday, showing off a polished 3 point shot and his already prominent ability to finish at the rim. With Ben Simmons out, it will be interesting to see what Maxey does in another game with increased minutes.
The defensive matchup to watch for the Sixers will be the rotation of Tyrese Maxey, Danny Green, and whoever else is tasked with covering Trae Young. Young can score from all 3 levels against even elite level defenders, and he will not be facing any of those with Ben Simmons still at home in Philly. Doc Rivers will have to come up with a way to neutralize Young with a short staff in tonight’s game.
TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
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