ATLANTA — On this night, the 76ers’ availability grew by two players.
The additions of Joel Embiid and Mike Scott gave the Sixers nine players at their disposal against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night. Their presence didn’t make a difference.
The Hawks rolled to a 112-94 victory at the State Farm Arena, handing the Sixers their third consecutive loss. This marked their second loss since five players were placed in the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols before Saturday’s game against the Denver Nuggets.
Monday’s game had the feel of a preseason tilt, one where the Sixers (7-4) were giving seldom-used players quality minutes. The difference was that they played out of necessity, not as a way to showcase their skills or to rest starters. The Hawks (5-5) feasted on that.
Atlanta had a commanding 32-point lead after three quarters and extended it to 35 points 16 seconds into the fourth. But the Hawks’ victory was never in doubt from late in the second quarter.
Embiid finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes, 49 seconds. He only played 3:46 in the third quarter and sat out the fourth quarter. Rookie Isaiah Joe had a solid performance, finishing with 18 points, while Tyrese Maxey added 15.
“We started out the game hoping we could steal one,” coach Doc Rivers said. “But once you saw that wasn’t going to happen, it was more about me getting guys a couple of reps up and down the floor.”
With the game all but decided, Rivers turned his focus to resting his core players for Tuesday’s home game against the Miami Heat.
Atlanta point guard Trae Young led all scorers with 26 points.
Embiid missed Saturday’s game with back tightness. Scott made his first appearance after missing the last five games with a bruised left knee. He was suited up for the loss to Denver just so the Sixers could have eight players, the minimum needed to play a game.
The Sixers’ starting lineup consisted of Danny Green, Scott, Embiid, and rookies Dakota Mathias and Maxey.
They are shorthanded because of the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols and injuries.
Seth Curry has tested positive for the coronavirus. Tobias Harris, Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, and Vincent Poirier also must adhere to the protocols due to contact tracing. They sat at the same table as Curry during a team meeting Thursday.
Monday marked the second game those five players missed due to the protocols. The Sixers’ next two games are against the Miami Heat on Tuesday and Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center. Rivers said there’s a possibility that Harris, Milton, Thybulle, and Poirier will return following the second Miami game.
“But I don’t think we’ve had clearance on that yet,” he said. “So we just have to wait and see.”
Curry could miss the next four games.
According to the NBA protocol, a player must isolate at least 10 days after the first positive test or onset of symptoms, or test negative twice at least 24 hours apart via PCR testing.
Rivers spoke to the shooting guard, who’s also his son-in-law, on Monday.
“He said, ‘Coach I feel great,’ ” Rivers said. “He said, ‘I had one bad day.’ ... He says, ‘You know what, I’m just holed up in the basement of my house, playing video games and watching basketball and football.’
“So all is good there, which is good news.”
The hope is that Ben Simmons will return Tuesday against the Heat.
“But you know, I can’t guarantee any of that,” Rivers said.
Simmons missed his second consecutive game with left-knee swelling. The two-time All-Star had surgery on Aug. 10 to remove a loose body in the left knee. The loose piece was found after he suffered a temporary partial dislocation of his left kneecap on Aug. 5 during the NBA restart at Walt Disney World.
“No, I don’t think it’s anything to do with last year,” Rivers said. “At least, I don’t know that. Let me put it that way. But it bothered him.”
The coach said Simmons was talking about it after Thursday’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets in New York.
“I think early in the season,” Rivers said, “we are trying to go with more safe than sorry measures right now.”
Furkan Korkmaz missed his eighth consecutive game with a left groin strain, while Terrance Ferguson missed this third due to personal reasons.
Rivers realistic knows it’s tough for the Sixers to win games with amount of players they are down.
“You don’t lose 62, 67 points out of your offense and scoring is not going to be a problem,” he said. “Even defense, it’s a problem when you have all those guys out.
“But you never know on a given night. You give yourself a shot, and as a coach you to got assess early on.”
This was a game the Hawks desperately needed to win.
They are a team trying overcome questions about Young’s playing style and injuries to their new players.
Atlanta opened the up season with victories over the Chicago Bulls, Memphis Grizzlies, and Detroit Pistons before losing their fourth game to the Brooklyn Nets. They followed that with an 18-point win over the Nets two days later, posting a 4-1 start. However, they went on to lose four straight games heading into Monday’s contest with the Sixers. After the third loss, a 15-point blowout to the New York Knicks, forward Jon Collins voiced his displeasure with how Young, an All-Star point guard, was running the offense.
In addition to stressing a need to get into the offensive sets quicker and limiting Young’s early shot-clock attempts, Collins expressed his desire to be more involved and that the team needed to have more ball movement.
The expectations were high for the Hawks heading into the season with acquisitions of Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kris Dunn, Tony Snell, and first-round pick Onyeka Okongwu. However, the Hawks haven’t been able to keep them healthy.
Bogdanovic suffered an avulsion fracture and soft tissue inflammation and bone bruising in his right knee that will sideline him an extended period of time. He suffered the injury in Saturday’s loss to the Charlotte Hornets.
Meanwhile, Gallinari missed Monday’s game with a sprained right ankle that has sidelined him for two weeks. Rondo missed his eighth game with a right knee injury maintenance. Kris Dunn last played in a game on Jan. 29 as a member of the Chicago Bulls. He had arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle on Dec. 30. Like Dunn, Okongwu (inflammation in the sesamoid bone in his left foot) has yet to play this season. And Snell made his first appearance Monday after missing the first nine games with inflammation to the cuboid bone in his right foot.
On this night, the Hawks jumped out a 19-point halftime lead before taking a 65-50 cushion into the break.