The Philadelphia 76ers were the team battling to stay out of last place in the Eastern Conference the last few seasons as “the process” took shape, but now they look like playoff contenders. The Atlanta Hawks, who visit the 76ers on Wednesday, may be the team getting ready to take Philadelphia’s place at the bottom of the East.
The 76ers picked up wins in three of their last four games, with the lone loss in that span on a last-second shot, and proved they could win on the road against a tough opponent with a 115-107 triumph at Houston on Monday that completed a two-game Texas sweep. “The Dallas game gave us a lot more confidence, and coming into Houston, we came in with the same mentality, and that was to get a win,” rookie point guard Ben Simmons told reporters. “Now we go home to play Atlanta and Indiana, and that’s where our focus is.” The Hawks are trying to find some focus and had their losing streak reach six straight with a 117-106 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday. Atlanta began the season with five straight games on the road - dropping the final four - and plays five of the next seven on the road as well, with the lone home games in that span against the Rockets and the Boston Celtics.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS Southeast (Atlanta), NBCS Philadelphia
ABOUT THE HAWKS (1-6): Atlanta lost plenty of offense with Paul Millsap, Dwight Howard and Tim Hardaway Jr. departing over the summer, but at least point guard Dennis Schroder is still around. Schroder returned from a two-game absence due to an ankle injury on Friday and showed no signs of any lingering issues while combining for 41 points on 15-of-32 shooting and 14 assists in losses to Denver and Milwaukee. Kent Bazemore is enjoying an expanded role as well and is averaging 13.1 points but shooting only 36.6 percent from the floor, including 31.8 percent from beyond the arc.
ABOUT THE 76ERS (3-4): “The process” is growing around center Joel Embiid and Simmons, who are already developing a connection two weeks into their first season together. Embiid delivered 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, nine rebounds and five assists in the win over Houston while Simmons tacked on 24 points on 10-of-15, nine assists and seven boards. “Those two guys together (have) been really good,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown told reporters. “Our wins have come on the road, and those two players especially have been excellent together.”
1. 76ers PF Amir Johnson recorded his first double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds on Monday.
2. Hawks PF Ersan Ilyasova (knee) is out for Wednesday and will miss at least the next week.
3. Atlanta took the last seven in the series, including four in a row in Philadelphia.
PREDICTION: 76ers 109, Hawks 103