76ers Open Series with Hawks

by Lauren Rosen

The 76ers (40-21) will open their two-game series with the Atlanta Hawks (34-28) Wednesday at The Center.

The Sixers are coming off a 121-90 victory over the Thunder Monday, snapping their four-game skid in decisive fashion.

Every available Sixer (15 players) scored in Monday’s matchup, with no Sixer playing longer than 25 minutes. The game marked the first time in Sixers’ history that all 15 active players scored.

Ben Simmons returned to the court after missing four games (non-COVID illness), finishing with 12 points (6-8 FG), three rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks.

Postgame, Doc Rivers praised Simmons’ work - alongside Matisse Thybulle - on the defensive end. Rivers says Simmons and Thybulle might be the best defensive wing duo he’s ever coached.

“It’s pretty awesome to watch. Zone with Matisse and Ben on the floor can be a dominant zone. Those two guys - their closing ability on shots is just absolutely remarkable to watch.”

Simmons said his defensive chemistry with Thybulle continues to grow as they each sharpen their skills.

“Tisse and I know we’re very gifted on the defensive side. We have a similar mindset going in, and we’re able to play off each other when he’s at the game. It’s tough for teams to score when there’s two guys like that on the floor.”

Dwight Howard (9 pts, 11 reb) is a fan of the defensive duo:

“I just love the fact that they understand the importance of playing aggressive, hard-nosed, physical, defense. I love seeing that out of Matisse and Ben - those guys are playing amazing on the wing, and we need that going into the playoffs.”

Excited to rejoin his teammates, Simmons is ready to embrace the road ahead, as the team closes in on the playoffs, with intensity.

“It’s going to be huge. We do want that number one seed, so that’s going to be on us to take care of business down the stretch. We’re looking forward to that challenge, and then obviously, getting into the playoffs.”

The Sixers would clinch a 2021 playoff berth with a win Wednesday.

Wednesday’s matchup tips at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Opponent Outlook:

Though the Hawks have won seven of their last 10 games, the team will be looking to rebound, following a loss to the Pistons Monday in Detroit, 100-86.

Atlanta won the first meeting between the Hawks and Sixers on Jan. 11, 112-94, but the Sixers were severely shorthanded due to health and safety protocols.

The Hawks have been shorthanded lately, with Trae Young (left ankle sprain), Lou Williams (flu-like symptoms), Cam Reddish (right achilles soreness), De’Andre Hunter (right knee soreness) and Tony Snell (right ankle sprain) all out for Atlanta’s Monday meeting with the Pistons.

Kris Dunn, however, made his Hawks debut Monday, after rehabbing from right ankle surgery.

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