PHILADELPHIA, PA – The start was strong, and so too was the finish.
In between, the 76ers found themselves engaged in a heated battle with a bruised Atlanta Hawks squad mired in an early-season slump.
Once again, Joel Embiid (21 pts, 12 reb, 6 ast, 3 stl, 3 blk) and Ben Simmons (19 pts, 13 reb, 9 ast) helped bring the Sixers home. Over the final five minutes of regulation, the duo combined for 12 of the team’s final 16 points, steering their squad to a 119-109 win.
Wednesday’s victory was the Sixers’ first of the season at The Center, and marked their third in a row overall. The club’s 4-4 start is its best to open a year since 2013-2014, Brett Brown’s first campaign.
From the jump Wednesday, the Sixers were clicking in explosive fashion. With balanced scoring, and a healthy dose of threes, they raced out to leads of 13-4 and 25-8. The blitz was highlighted by the Sixers opening a perfect 5 for 5 start from the perimeter.
Atlanta, however, relied on a persistent attack on the lane to get back into contention. The Hawks cranked out 32 points in the paint by halftime, at which point the Sixers’ margin was down to just 2 points, 59-57.
Atlanta held several leads in the third period, but by setting the tone at the outset of the fourth, the Sixers regained control. They held the Hawks without a basket for more than 6 minutes, and opened up a 7-point cushion on a Jerryd Bayless (14 pts) 3 pointer.
From there, Embiid and Simmons took care of the rest.
Embiid’s 6 assists marked a new career-high, as were his 30 minutes, 15 seconds.
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Two vets working as an effective tandem.
With the jam on this late third-quarter sequence, Amir Johnson, who for a second straight game deposited a season-high 12 points, gave the Sixers the lead back.
Despite parting ways with a slew of proven veterans this off-season, four-time All-Star Paul George chief among them (plus Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, and C.J. Miles), the Indiana Pacers has enjoyed pretty encouraging start, all things considered. Heading into a match-up with the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday, Indy had won back-to-back games, the first victory coming against the San Antonio Spurs. The Pacers actually took the floor one game ahead of the Cavs in the standings.