This edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” – Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews key upcoming 76ers games – features tonight’s opponent, the Atlanta Hawks, who have lost six in a row yet still cling to the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
After the jump, I’ll look a Fo’ key items for tonight’s game. Additionally, we’ll get a little more insight into the Atlanta team the Sixers face tonight from our colleague David Menze at Soaring Down South as David will answer Fo’ questions on the Hawks from us here at Philadunkia.
Here are Fo’ key items I will be watching for tonight…
1) Thad to Have A Big Night — Thad has averaged 24.7 points in his last three runs against the Hawks. #21 is also riding a ten game streak where he is averaging 21 points per night despite 38% shooting from the field. After an 0-12 stretch from deep, Thad has hit 4 of his last 9 from three (2-4 vs. DET). I hope Thad looks for his early and often in this one and keeps this game competitive.
2) End the Streak Part Deux — The Sixers ended their 26 game losing streak on Saturday night and now I want them to use that momentum and end a 12 game road losing streak. The Hawks are a mess in their own right, so come out and play with energy and jump all over this team which owns playoff hopes that are on life support.
3) Teague vs. MCW — MCW struggles with quicker PGs. Jeff Teague is quick and right now he’s playing very well. If you remove the 0-fer blip that Jeff Teague experienced against the Timberwolves last week, in his last 4 games the Atlanta point man is averaging 18 ppg. on 47% shooting to go with 5 apg. MCW on the other has been on the roller coaster of late, shooting 25% or below from the field in 3 of his last 5 games. In the other two contests he shot 42% and 47.6%. I’ll be interested to watch which MCW shows up tonight and how this match-up plays out.
4) Brett Brown — The Pistons laid down like dogs on Saturday night, so Brown had very little control over whether or not the Sixers broke the losing streak. If the Sixers are competitive deep into the game tonight, I’ll be watching for tanking moves from the caoch vs. playing it straight. Adam Silver may not believe the Sixers have tanked individual games this year, but I do.
For a little more insight into the Hawks team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man David Menze at Soaring Down South to answer four questions on the Hawks from us here at Philadunkia.
Philadunkia: The Hawks have a 6 game losing streak of their own going on right now and are 4-6 in their last 10. What have been few of the issues during this recent stretch of play?
David Menze at Soaring Down South: Simply put: injuries. Kyle Korver missed the last six games due to back spasms, while fellow starters DeMarre Carroll and Pero Antic have each sat out a game in the past four days as well. The Hawks just can’t stay healthy, and injuries are the main reason for their slump.
Philadunkia: I realize the Hawks are not a great team (6-20 since early February), but what are one or two things you think give them an advantage over the Sixers tonight?
David Menze at Soaring Down South: I would say the way the Hawks share the ball, as well as their shooting ability give them an advantage over the Sixers tonight. Atlanta led the NBA in team assists per game for much of the season, and currently rank 2nd in league with 24.8 a night (Spurs w/ 25.5 apg are 1st). They also rank 11th in 3-point shooting (.369) and 12th in field goal percentage (.455), which are both above average marks. Conversely, Philly ranks 14th in assists per game (21.8), and is the worst 3-point shooting team in the league (.310), while also being tied for posting the worst field goal percentage (.430).
Philadunkia: After missing 7 games, it looks like former 76er Louis Williams is playing his best ball since that hot streak he had in mid-January. What have you seen from Louis in his last four outings that you can attribute to this surge?
David Menze at Soaring Down South: Confidence. He was playing good basketball before that stretch where he received seven straight DNP-CD’s, and just continues to have confidence in his ability when his named is called upon. In his hot span of play during January, he scored in double-figures in a season-best seven straight games. However, supposedly Louis wasn’t playing good enough defense for coach Mike Budenholzer and that’s when he was benched for that seven-game span. Now in these past four games when he’s been getting playing time — because of the injury to Korver and the team’s recent struggles — he’s picked up where he left off and continues to play good basketball and drop double-digits.
Philadunkia: Given the way the Atlanta has been playing of late and the remaining schedules for the Hawks and Knicks (and Cavs?), do you think your team can hold onto the 8th and final playoff spot?
David Menze at Soaring Down South: Yes, despite their recent skid, the Hawks can hold onto the final playoff spot. At 2.5 games behind, I think the Cavs are just too far out to leapfrog both New York and Atlanta, therefore they’re out of the discussion. The Knicks have a much better shot of catching the Hawks since they’re only one game behind in the standings — and could actually move into a tie tonight with a win and Hawks loss — however their schedule is harder than Atlanta’s is, as NY plays seven Eastern Conference playoff-bound teams in their final seven games, including Brooklyn twice. The Hawks have an easier final stretch, only playing five playoff-bound teams in their 10 remaining games, and will hold on to make the playoffs.
Thanks to David Menze for his time and answers.
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