Games are tough when you're missing Joel Embiid. They're even tougher when most of the team decides not to show up.
The Sixers had yet another dreadful effort in Atlanta, falling to the Hawks, 130-122, at State Farm Arena Wednesday night.
The Sixers lost the season series, 3-1, to an Atlanta team that just won its 30th game. Even with Jimmy Butler (back) returning to the lineup, it was an uninspiring effort.
They're still searching for their 50th win, falling to 49-29 on the season, and have not yet clinched the East's third seed with four games left to play. They're now 7-9 without Embiid this season.
Here are observations from the loss.
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• The defensive intensity in the first quarter was at the level of an NBA All-Star game. It seemed like either team got whatever they wanted, with the Hawks shooting 65 percent from the field and holding a 42-38 lead.
The Sixers just looked disinterested early. Atlanta wasn't even making tough baskets. They were just running simple pick-and-rolls and getting out on the break. The Sixers didn't fight through screens and their transition defense was non-existent.
With 9:08 in the second quarter and with the Hawks already up to 50 points, Ben Simmons stemmed the tide for a bit. The possession looked like it was going to end with another easy bucket off a pick-and-roll. Instead, as Jonah Bolden and JJ Redick converged on the ball handler, Simmons helped off his man and blocked big man Isaac Humphries at the rim.
But that momentum didn't last long.
• Trae Young just killed the Sixers in the pick-and-roll all night long. Whether it was Redick or T.J. McConnell defending the rookie guard, he ate them alive. During one stretch in the third quarter, the duo of Young and John Collins looked unstoppable. Every other possession ended in a Young floater or a lob finished off by Collins. It was surprising that Brett Brown didn't look to switch things up and throw Butler on Young while Young was shredding the Sixers' defense apart.
Young is giving voters something to think about in the Rookie of the Year race. He finished with a game-high 33 points (12 of 18 shooting) with 12 assists and just two turnovers. Collins was no slouch, pouring in 25 points.
It was also a strong night for Saint Joseph's product DeAndre' Bembry, who recorded 17 points (6 of 9 shooting), six rebounds and four assists.
• Another thing worth pointing out: the Sixers were dreadful from the free throw line. It wasn't the reason they lost, but going 22 of 38 from the charity stripe certainly didn't help their cause.
• Redick had another strong game. He set the Sixers' single-season record with his 227th three in the first quarter, passing Kyle Korver's franchise mark. It's still amazing how much Redick is able to run around without the ball and hit shots while still on the move. He cooled as the game went on, but finished with a team-high 30 points, going 10 of 22 from the field and 6 of 13 from three.
• Simmons really struggled from the floor in the first half. He was getting good looks at the rim, but wound up just going 1 of 8 from the field. He missed a couple bunnies and was rejected on one dunk attempt by former Sixer Justin Anderson. Simmons was also poor from the line, going just 3 of 8. It didn't get much better in the second half for Simmons, who went just 6 of 17 overall but did finish with 15 rebounds and eight assists.
• The backup center position is still a bit of an enigma. Bolden started again and his defense was shoddy early again like against the Mavericks. But to the rookie's credit, he got over the sleepy start and actually shined at times. He was able to stay out of foul trouble in this one as well.
Boban Marjanovic gave them an offensive spark, but was getting killed by the Hawks in the pick-and-roll. This type of matchup is a nightmare for the hulking center. It's the growing concern in using him in the postseason.
• James Ennis had to leave the game early in the third quarter with a right quad contusion, the injury that caused him to miss two games last week.
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