The Philadelphia 76ers will see teams from the bottom to the top in the Eastern Conference standings as they embark on a four-game trip that starts in Atlanta against the last-place Hawks on Thursday night.
With a healthy Joel Embiid along for the ride, the 76ers also will visit Boston, Miami andMilwaukee on a trip that features four off days and no back-to-backs.
The 76ers got Embiid back from a nine-game absence due to a torn ligament in his left ring finger for Tuesday's 115-104 home win over Golden State, and he responded with a 24-point, 10-rebound double-double.
Coincidentally, the 24 points came on a night on which Embiid donned uniform No. 24 as a tribute to the late Kobe Bryant. The 76ers had previously retired the jersey in honor of Bobby Jones.
Embiid played 26 minutes and was 9-of-13 shooting.
"For a first game back," 76ers coach Brett Brown gushed to reporters afterward, "it was pretty impressive."
Embiid was the difference-maker when the 76ers won 105-103 at Atlanta in the first week of the season. He capped a 36-point, 13-rebound performance with a pair of tie-breaking free throws with 5.3 seconds remaining.
That night, he outdid fellow All-Star starter Trae Young, who had 25 points but was harassed into 7-for-20 shooting.
Young enters the rematch on a nice roll, having recorded four consecutive double-doubles, including two in which he scored 42 and 45 points.
The 45-point effort came in the Hawks' most recent home game, a 152-133 win over Washington on Sunday.
Wearing uniform No. 8, Young also found time for 14 assists in his emotional tribute to the Bryant family, including Kobe's daughter Gianna, who also died in the helicopter crash.
"She told me how much she loved watching me play," Young told reporters, noting that she had attended at least two Hawks games. "She was a big fan of mine."
The Hawks are coming off a 130-114 loss at Toronto on Tuesday and are 7-16 at home.
After sweeping a two-game homestand, the 76ers will take the court Thursday having won six of seven.
With Embiid back, the 76ers enter the second of four meetings with the Hawks this season in far better shape health-wise than their rivals.
The 76ers had all their big guns firing against Golden State on Tuesday. Al Horford nearly recorded a triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, while Tobias Harris contributed 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists in a team-high 37 minutes. Ben Simmons chipped in with 17 points, four rebounds and five assists.
Harris (13 points) and Simmons (13) also scored in double figures in the October win at Atlanta, as did Josh Richardson (14), who currently is out of action with a strained left hamstring.
Meanwhile, the Hawks were without two of their big men -- Alex Len (strained right hip) and Bruno Fernando (strained calf) -- as well as forward Jabari Parker (shoulder issue) in the loss at Toronto. Neither Len nor Fernando has been ruled out of Thursday's game. Guard DeAndre' Bembry (right hand neuritis) is out.
John Collins shifted over to center at times against the Raptors and had a big game, recording a 28-point, 12-rebound double-double.
Collins had 16 points and eight rebounds in the earlier loss to the 76ers.
--Field Level Media