There's a sense that January came early this season.
The vibe around the 76ers is reminiscent of the excitement they provided in January last season. No one is expecting them to duplicate their winning 10 of 15 games, as they did then. But you can't deny that the electricity provided by Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Co. is similar to that of 10 months ago.
On Wednesday, the Sixers showed a will to win as they extended their winning streak to three games with a 119-109 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. The sellout crowd of 20,549 witnessed the team's first home win of the season.
The Sixers (4-4) have won four of five games after opening the season with losses to the Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics, and Toronto Raptors. The last time they were .500 was Nov. 15, 2013, when they were 5-5.
The Hawks (1-7) extended their league-worst losing skid to seven games.
"I don't know if this is like January or it isn't," coach Brett Brown said. "What I do feel is we have a program and system in place that we are able to refine. We are not blowing up things.
"We experienced that growth last year in January, because we had a consistent team. … And we were about to walk it down."
This season's squad has several young players they expect to build around. The Sixers are also an extremely unselfish group. One gets a sense that for the most part, they don't care who gets the glory. They just want to win.
That was evident in the Sixers' locker room after the game.
Robert Covington was asked if this moment remind him of January. Justin Anderson, who didn't play in the game, chimed in before Covington could answer.
"Put that [stuff] in the past," Anderson said. "We are a new team. We aren't worrying about what the Sixers did last year.
"We are going to a different direction. We are nice now. We are not worried about what they did in the past."
The Sixers finished last season 28-54, the league's fourth-worst record. They expect to make the Eastern Conference playoffs this season.
Simmons, Embiid and Covington just might be able to take them there.
Covington, however, had a little scare.
The forward limped to the locker room with 4 minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter. It was determined that he had a right knee hyperflexion: His knee bent too far in the wrong direction.
"I just slipped on a wet spot," he said. "My knee just gave a little bit, but I'm all right."
Covington returned in the fourth quarter and missed three shots — two on three-pointers. However, no one held that against him. Covington did enough damage before the injury. He made six of 11 three-pointers while leading the team with 22 points.
Embiid finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocked shots in a season-high 30 minutes, 15 seconds. Eleven of his points came in the fourth quarter. Simmons had 19 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and two steals.
J.J. Redick struggled after missing the previous two games with lower-back soreness. He finished with eight points on 3-for-11 shooting. The shooting guard missed five of his six three-pointers.
The Sixers decided to keep Dario Saric in the starting lineup. The power forward started the season on the bench. But he started alongside Simmons, Covington, Embiid and Jerryd Bayless while Redick was sidelined.
Saric averaged 13 points in those games. So the Sixers opted to keep him in the lineup and bring Bayless off the bench. However, Saric didn't have the same positive results Wednesday, scoring five points on 1-for-9 shooting.
Bayless (14 points), Amir Johnson (12 points, eight rebounds) and T.J. McConnell (12 points, seven assists) were the Sixers' double-digit scorers from the bench.
Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder finished with a game-high 25 points. Taurean Prince had 17 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.
The Sixers had a commanding 17-point lead in the first quarter. However, they let the Hawks back into the game. Atlanta took its first lead (64-63) on Schroder's three-point play with 9 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Then the Hawks extended their lead to seven points (73-66) after Prince's foul shots with 7:16 left in the quarter.
"We couldn't guard them in the middle two periods," Brown said of the Hawks' shooting 50 percent (25-for-50) during the second and third quarters.
The Sixers regained the lead at 87-85 on Johnson's dunk with 2:50 left in the quarter. They had a 111-98 advantage after Redick made a three-pointer with 2:47 remaining in the game.