Old friends Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova make their return to Philips Arena on Friday night in the Hawks final matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers this season. Belinelli played just 52 games in a Hawks uniform after Atlanta traded for him last summer before buying him out after the trade deadline. Ilyasova was similarly bought out after Hawks management was unable to find a trade before February 8th. Both players hold pivotal rotation roles for the visiting 76ers, who will have to go deeper into their bench after it was announced on Thursday that Joel Embiid will undergo surgery to repair a right orbital fracture suffered on Wednesday night. Embiid is a huge miss for Philadelphia, as he was an All-Star this year and looks to be in line for All-NBA, All-Defensive Team, and perhaps even Defensive Player of the Year honors once the regular season concludes.
For the Hawks, the rather long list of injuries stays that way, as Dennis Schröder looks doubtful to play with his ankle injury to add to the litany of players who are presumed out: Kent Bazemore, Malcolm Delaney, Jaylen Morris, Antonius Cleveland, and DeAndre’ Bembry will all likely be in street clothes for this contest. Additionally, Josh Magette and Tyler Cavanaugh were assigned to the Erie Bayhawks ahead of their Saturday playoff game against the Lakeland Magic, leaving the Hawks with just nine healthy bodies, including only one point guard.
Isaiah Taylor will man the starting job at the point if Schröder is unable to go, but the backup point guard role will be up in the air for Atlanta, given that Magette is in Erie and both Schröder and Delaney look to be out injured. Look for Tyler Dorsey to take some of those minutes guarding the 76ers backup point guard (whether that be T.J. McConnell or Markelle Fultz) and for Taurean Prince to be even more involved as a primary ball handler. Prince’s usage has been through the roof the past three weeks as the team gets a good look at his ability to handle playmaking responsibilities.
At the other end, Ben Simmons is the player to watch for Philadelphia. Simmons poses a very unusual challenge for opposing teams due to his combination of size and playmaking ability: he handles the ball like a point guard but has the size and physicality of a power forward. Atlanta will probably go to a committee of guys to stop Simmons.
Game Date/Time: Friday, March 30, 7:30 pm ET
Location: Philips Arena
TV: Fox Sports Southeast, Fox Sports Go, NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 The Game (Atlanta)