Simmons and Embiid missing at the free throw line
Two known upsides to the skill set of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons — Embiid draws a ton of contact when he plays at the low post, and Simmons is great at getting to the rim, which gives him a huge opportunity to draw contact and get to the free throw line. But Wednesday, the two combined for 5-of-11 from the free throw line. There is no way around this — Embiid has to play down low, and Simmons has to be aggressive driving to the rim. The team suffers when they aren't doing that. Simmons didn't even draw a shooting foul until there was 8:05 left to play. That's too late. The reason the Sixers were able to pull away at the end was Embiid's returned presence under the basket.
Defense down low
The Hawks scored more than 50 of their points in the paint. Joel Embiid is supposed to be a great rim protector, and one of Brett Brown's reasons for playing Amir Johnson over Jahlil Okafor is because he wants defense from the backup center. But there was very little defense down low from the Sixers big men. When Embiid did go for the blocks, he missed or fouled most of the time. If there is a 7-foot-2 guy on the floor for more than 30 minutes, nobody should be scoring with ease down low.
The Sixers are demanding that their opponents defend them at the three-point line. They hit their first six treys against Atlanta. They shot 47.4 percent from three in the first half, before the Hawks started to close out on the shooters, including Jerryd Bayless and T.J. McConnell. Six different Sixers hit from deep.
Covington can not carry the Sixers.
He was the only Sixer in double figures in the first half. He had a great game with 22 points, shooting 7-of-15 including 6-of-11 from three. But without some major contributions from the some of the other guys, the team is not going to be able to make it. He was injured in the third quarter (right knee hyper-flexion) and the team was able to keep it together, but they relied on his shooting too much and didn't utilize the rest of their weapons.
Where is Redick?
J.J. Redick returned to action after missing two games because of lower-back tightness. But "returned" might be a strong word to use. Redick scored just 8 points on 3-of-11 shooting. It could be that he's just off because of the missed time, but the Sixers are going to need him to hit shots.