ATLANTA – On a night when the 76ers played well in spurts, they managed to put just enough together to come out with a lackluster 121-113 win and get past the woeful Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena.
But the Sixers (51-30) still established the franchise’s single-season winning streak with their 15th straight victory.
JJ Redick finished with a team-high 28 points, while making 6 of 9 three-pointers. Ben Simmons had 14 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals and six turnovers after being listed as questionable with gastroenteritis earlier in day.
Meanwhile, Dario Saric suffered a game-ending cut lip and chipped left incisor on the first possession of the contest. His status for Wednesday night’s regular-season finale against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Wells Fargo Center will be determined after a visit to the dentist in the morning.
Most nights, the winning streak, the injury, and the players’ performances would dominate the postgame discussions.
But this was a potential trap game with everyone – players, fans, coaches and the media – well aware that the Bucks were looming.
And, with that said, it was an across-the-board Milwaukee-centered focus for everyone associated with the Sixers.
“We know it’s a big game,” Simmons said. “They are coming in to win, also. So for us, you have to be locked in as soon as the [Hawks game] is over and be ready for the next game.”
The Sixers have the third seed in the Eastern Conference for the upcoming NBA playoffs. Beating the Bucks (44-37) is the best way to guarantee keeping it.
Otherwise, the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are a game behind the Sixers, would have to lose their regular-season finale at New York against the Knicks on Wednesday night.
Monday’s victory over the Knicks gave the Cavaliers (50-31) the Central Division title. As division winners, they would hold the tiebreaker over the Sixers should both teams finish with the same record. That’s why the Sixers want to control their own destiny by beating Milwaukee.
The Bucks, the Miami Heat and Washington Wizards were potential first-round opponents, assuming the Sixers get the third seed. They would face the fifth-seeded Indiana Pacers by sliding to the fourth spot.
“Now you have one game left,” Brett Brown said. “To play at home for a tremendous position advantage we feel for the third seed is important. We will learn about our injuries soon, what it means to Dario.
“We are not done yet. We got stuff to do still.”
The Sixers will host Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series against an undetermined opponent on Saturday at Wells Fargo Center.
The Bucks won two of the season’s three games vs. the Sixers, winning the last two games – both in Milwaukee.
In their last game, a 118-110 decision in Milwaukee on March 4, the Sixers blew a 20-point lead in the first half, then a 19-point one after intermission. They also committed 26 turnovers, which led to 36 points by the Bucks.
So the Sixers want to have a great performance Wednesday.
“Especially because it’s the last regular-season game,” Simmons said. “So for me, I want to come out and make a statement that we are ready.
“Obviously without [the injured Joel Embiid], again, but we still have a great team.”
The all-star center will miss his eighth straight game after fracturing the orbital bone near his left eye and suffering a concussion against the Knicks on March 28. On social media Wednesday, Embiid showed off the mask he’ll wear once he return to action. While the Sixers won’t give a timetable for his return, the hope is that he’ll be back at some point in the first round.
Embiid might not be only standout to miss Wednesday’s game. All-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored a game-high 35 points against the Sixers on March 4, has missed the Bucks’ last two games with soreness in his right ankle. His squad has yet to release its injury report.
Meanwhile, Saric is questionable. He cut his upper lip and chipped his tooth while being kicked in the mouth while fouling Hawks power forward John Collins 13 seconds into the game. After falling to the court, Saric got up and immediately jogged to the locker room. The dentist visit in Philadelphia will determine whether the tooth is worse than merely chipped. Fear of a fracture was the only reason he didn’t return against the Hawks.
“I feel a little bit pain,” Saric said following the game.
On Tuesday, Redick hit a pair of foul shots to give the Sixers a 119-112 lead with 23.2 seconds left. Then Ersan Ilyasova added two more at the 16.4 mark to the Sixers a nine-point lead (121-112).
Ilyasova, a former Hawk, finished with 26 points and Marco Belinelli, another former Hawk, had 20 in reserve roles. Amir Johnson had 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting to go with eight rebounds and five assists.
Taurean Prince paced the Hawks with 27 points.
“We want to remain focused and continue playing like we’ve been playing and finish out the season strong,” Johnson said about Wednesday’s game. “We do want that third seed. We just got to stay focused.”