This Friday 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 upcoming 76ers opponents — features tonight’s opponent the Atlanta Hawks.
Given the horrific play of the 76ers for 90% of the last two months and the fact that they’ve had no idea how to “Protect this House” in 2009-10 (3rd worst home record in the League), we were tempted to quickly write down tonight’s game against the Atlanta Hawks as a blow out loss and move on. However, the win in Milwaukee on Wednesday night highlighted a trend with this struggling Sixers team. For some reason they frequently rise up against “elite”, playoff-bound teams, and give them a good game or even pull out the occasional upset. In addition to the shocking win two nights ago at Milwaukee, the Sixers played decently but lost to Orlando on Monday and put in “spirited” efforts earlier this month against Cleveland and Boston. Back in February, they beat the Spurs and gave the Lakers all they could handle before going down in the final ticks.
So we don’t expect the Sixers to get embarrassed tonight, but we still think a W is out of the question. We know their defense is not good enough to stop the talented and deep Hawks who feature the scorerslike Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Jamal Crawford, Al Horford, Marvin Williams and Jeff Teague. Additionally, Philadunkia’s home team doesn’t have enough firepower to go toe-to-toe with the Hawks offense in a shoot out style game. So after further consideration, our original instinct was probably correct, tonight the Sixers are going to take another L and inch closer to the 4th spot in 2010 NBA Lotter, but they’ll do it gracefully.
For a little more insight into the Hawks team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Bret LaGree from hoopinionblog.com to answer two questions on Atlanta from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of analysis on his Hawks squad from an insider’s perspective.
Bret LaGree@ hoopinionblog.com : The Hawks have already won more games on the road this season than last so I guess my lack of concern is more due to history than forethought. I don’t think anyone believes the Hawks are trying to win a championship so we’re left to appreciate the incremental improvements. The Hawks will be a clear favorite in the first round with home-court advantage and a clear underdog in the second round (should they reach it) without home-court advantage, but I doubt it will be due to home-court advantage so much as the respective quality of the teams that decides either series.
Philadunkia : The Hawks core – Johnson, Smith, Crawford, Horford, Williams and Bibby have been very healthy all year and missed few games. Having a healthy lineup is something the Sixers know very little about, so tell us how great it is to know your big guns are going to be on the court every night and are you worried that the basketball gods will ruin your postseason with a freak injury down the stretch?
Bret LaGree@ hoopinionblog.com : The end of the Hawks’ bench consists of Mario West, Jason Collins, and Randolph Morris. I’m extremely grateful for the good health of those ahead of them in the rotation. It’d be hard to say the last postseason was ruined by injury. The Hawks were highly unlikely to beat the Cavaliers in the second-round, but without Marvin Williams (the only Hawk who can realistically guard LeBron James even a little bit) and Al Horford, it was impossible to compete withthem. It would be terribly disappointing to suffer a similar playoff defeat wherein the team was unable to give a better team its best shot.
Two Points of Analysis from Bret LaGree@ hoopinionblog.com :
1) The Hawks are athletic (Mike Bibby excepted) and tend to look their best in transition but they don’t play a lot of high-possession games. They’re 27th in league in possessions per game though it’s entirely due to a slow tempo. The Hawks, because they rarely turn the ball over and are good on the offensive glass, tend to have a lot of long possessions when they’re in the half-court.
2) Per minute and per possession, Josh Smith has nearly matched Joe Johnson assist for assist this year. It’s a testament both to Smith’s increasing role in the offense and his improved willingness to play in the post where, unlike when lingers 20 feet from the basket, he draws the attention of one or more defenders. He’s always been a good passer but his increased self-awareness has provided him more and better passing lanes.