There's no argument that Joel Embiid is the franchise cornerstone for the Philadelphia 76ers.
There's also no argument that Embiid has been struggling since returning from a three-week absence from COVID-19. After a successful first game with 42 points and 14 rebounds, Embiid has scuffled badly in the last two, going 7 for 33 from the field.
Embiid shot 3 for 17 in an 88-87 road loss to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. He'll look to rebound when the Sixers face another tough matchup Friday on the road against the Atlanta Hawks.
"Some guys come back quickly and play pretty well, a lot of guys have played the one great game when they're back and then go into a little fog," Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said of Embiid. "You can tell he's definitely struggling just getting going. We just gotta keep playing him and let him play through it."
Embiid did grab 18 rebounds against the Celtics, but he looked out of sync offensively.
"I will never use it as an excuse, but it's gonna take me a while to get back especially legs and cardio and all that stuff," Embiid said. "Every single day, I just gotta keep working hard and keep getting better."
Seth Curry led the way with 17 points, and he said that the Sixers will continue to run the offense through their All-Star in Embiid.
"Some nights you're not getting those calls, some nights it's on us as teammates, just try to attack and make it easy on him when we get the opportunity," Curry said. "We'll go to him so that's not gonna change. So we got to just figure out ways to get him going."
The Hawks will be searching for their second straight win when they host the Sixers.
In their most recent game Wednesday, the Hawks defeated the Indiana Pacers 114-111.
Trae Young paced the Hawks with a stellar 33-point, 10-assist effort.
"I'm getting to my spots and I've worked really hard on making my jumpers," Young said. "And the other guys are making plays, too. If they don't make plays, I don't get as many good looks."
Young has scored at least 30 points in five straight games. In addition, Young leads the league with five games of at least 30 points and 10 assists.
"We made it tougher on ourselves at the end and a lot of that is on me," Young said. "I've got to do better at closing the game and I almost gave the game up with that turnover at the end, but I'm glad we're able to learn in a win."
Hawks head coach Nate McMillan missed Wednesday's win as part of the league's health and safety protocols. It's unclear whether he will be on the bench against the Sixers.
Assistant coach Chris Jent guided the Hawks, who technically gave McMillan his 700th career win.
"To be a part of that legacy, the quality of person and the quality of coach that he is, to be tagged with that man, that's a great honor," Jent said. "I'm honored to be a part of that. So that was really cool."
--Field Level Media