The Philadelphia 76ers have played 27 games since acquiring Jimmy Butler from Minnesota in November, and the effort to fit him into an offense featuring Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons continues heading into Friday's home game against the Atlanta Hawks. The 76ers are 18-9 since trading for Butler but not all is harmonious in the City of Brotherly Love, as Butler reportedly has criticized coach Brett Brown's usage of him in the offense.
Nights like Wednesday - when Philadelphia's four-game winning streak ended with a 123-106 loss at Washington, a game the 76ers trailed by 26 points in the third quarter - do not help, even though Embiid (35 points), Butler (23) and Simmons (15) combined for 68.9 percent of the offensive output. "I think that was just lack of competitiveness," Simmons told reporters afterward. "I don't think we competed." As for Atlanta, the rebuilding Hawks went 5-1 during an impressive late December stretch, but are 1-5 since after Wednesday's 116-100 defeat at Brooklyn. "A lot of energy, a lot of movement, a lot of pace, attacking downhill, and then we just ran out of gas," Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce said after a game in which the Hawks led by 15 points after one quarter then fell flat on the second night of a back-to-back.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS Southeast (Atlanta), NBCS Philadelphia LINE: 76ers -12
ABOUT THE HAWKS (12-29): John Collins continues his campaign for All-Star consideration, scoring 30 points with 14 rebounds Wednesday for his 16th double-double of the season and raising his team-leading averages to 18.8 points and 10.6 rebounds. Rookie guards Trae Young and Kevin Huerter have found a rhythm offensively, Young averaging 15.9 points and 7.6 assists in his past nine games and Huerter reaching double-figures scoring in his past four games. Atlanta concludes a stretch of six road contests in seven games Friday; the Hawks are 5-19 away from home this season.
ABOUT THE 76ERS (27-15): Butler has averaged 18.3 points in 23 games since joining Philadelphia, averaging 13.9 shots per game on a team where Embiid averages 18.2 shots per contest and Simmons 11.5. Embiid ranks third in the NBA in rebounding at 13.5 per game and seventh in scoring at 26.9, while Simmons is shooting 57.1 percent from the field. Philadelphia has struggled at times defensively, sitting 22nd in the league in scoring defense (112.5).
1. The 76ers are third in the NBA in assists (27 per game), fourth in rebounding (47.5) and sixth in scoring (114.6).
2. Philadelphia SG J.J. Redick missed his second game in a row with lower back tightness, but the 76ers are optimistic he could return as early as Friday.
3. Simmons scored 21 points to lift Philadelphia to a 113-92 home victory over Atlanta on Oct. 29, the 76ers' fourth consecutive triumph over the Hawks.
PREDICTION: 76ers 123, Hawks 99 Bet Now
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