Hawks hope to continue recent dominance of 76ers (Jan 21, 2017)
ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks go for their seventh straight home victory over Philadelphia when they host the 76ers on Saturday.
The Hawks have won 12 of the past 13 meetings between the teams overall and their wins this season were by 32 points at Philadelphia and by 21 points in Atlanta.
Both those games, though, came in the first three weeks of the season, when Atlanta was getting off to a 9-2 start and the 76ers looked like they might be headed to another dismal season.
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The Hawks (25-18) lost 10 of 11 games after their fast start before recovering to again take first place in the Southeast Division, winning 10 of their past 12 games.
Atlanta is in the middle of a stretch of three home games in four days. The Hawks host the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday.
“It’s good for us,” point guard Dennis Schroder said of being home for awhile. “We’ve been on the road a lot. We have to protect home court in front of our fans.”
It took a while for the 76ers (15-26) to start to jell, but they have won eight of their past 10 games and are no longer at the bottom of NBA standings.
Much of the credit for that belongs to center Joel Embiid, who leads all rookies in scoring (19.7), rebounds (7.9) and blocked shots (2.5) after missing what should have been his first two seasons because of injuries.
Embiid, though, hasn’t played in back-to-back games this season and left Friday’s 93-92 victory over Portland at Philadelphia in the fourth quarter with a bruised left knee.
“I’m fine. I’m good. The knee’s fine,” said Embiid, who was hurt landing after a third-quarter dunk. “I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way. The front office cares about my future, so they just shut it down, but I was fine.”
If Embiid, who had 18 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four blocks against Portland, doesn’t play against the Hawks, that will mean an opportunity for center Jahlil Okafor.
Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, has appeared in just three of the 76es’ past 10 games, but had 26 points and 11 rebounds against at Washington a week ago in the last game without Embiid.
Okafor has appeared in 30 games and is averaging 11.2 points and 4.9 rebounds.
Embiid, a third overall pick a year before Okafor, would have been named a starter for the East in the upcoming NBA All-Star Game if it was still entirely left up to the fan vote.
Coaches and the media now split the other half of the vote and Embiid was beaten out by Chicago’s Jimmy Butler for the fifth spot despite getting the third most votes for an Eastern Division player.
“The fans, they gave everything they had and I came up short,” Embiid said before Friday’s game. “But I was just happy to see that the fans supported me and they are behind me and they wanted me to succeed.”
The Hawks are also in the second part of a back-to-back, having beaten Chicago 102-93 in Atlanta on Friday.
“We’re playing at a high level now,” forward Thabo Sefolosha said. “We have to keep it up and take care of these games at home.”
Mike Muscala, the Hawks’ first big man off the bench, missed his third straight game on Friday against the Bulls with a sprained left ankle and is doubtful to play against Philadelphia. He was hurt shortly after entering the game Sunday against Milwaukee when he stepped on the foot of teammate Schroder.