This late Tuesday 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 who are winners of three straight games.
The Sixers have had two tough Ls against the Hawks this year, — the Hawks won 104-101 at Philadelphia on Oct. 29th ; and of course who can forget the 93-88 debacle in Atlanta back on December 3rd (The 76ers led from the first basket of the game until the final 31 seconds) – and unfortunately we expect the losing trend vs. Atlanta to continue tonight.
Despite going 2-1 in their last three games away form the WFC, we all know that the 76ers have struggled on the road this season (7-19 overall). On the flipside, the Hawks are 17-7 at home this season (15-2 in their last 17). So those numbers don’t bode well for a potential win by the 7-6.
Additionally, on paper the Hawks are a more talented, more athletic and deeper squad. Their young and skilled frontline especially presents some significant problems for the 76ers. Al Horford is not a 100% lock to play tonight, but if he does, you should be aware that Horford is averaging a double-double vs. the Sixers this season (17.5 & 12.5). Marvin Williams and super-athletic Josh Smith will also give the Sixers trouble in the paint.
Throw in the fact that Sixer killer Joe Johnson (27.5 points in his last four home vs. the 76ers) will play tonight (He missed the Dec. 3rd game due to an elbow injury) and the forecast for stopping the Hawks on the perimeter in this contest doesn’t look that sunny for the Sixers either.
However, for some reason the 7-6 continually play the Hawks well, so that leads us to believe that Sixers will keep this one close as they have done twice already this season. Unfortunately just don’t think the Sixers have enough to win this one in Atlanta tonight. That’s especially true if Jrue Holiday continues his recent struggles and Louis Williams tries to dominate in front of his hometown folks.
As always, we hope we’re wrong.
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 this Hawks squad from an insider’s perspective.
Philadunkia : The Hawks are 5-2 in their last 7 games and have won 3 straight. However all but one of those wins (vs. NYK) have come against teams significantly under the .500 mark. So what’s your take on the Hawks recent run?
Bret LaGree@ hoopinionblog.com : The Hawks, especially now that Joe Johnson’s elbow is healthy, have too much frontline talent to slip up very often against poor teams. The lack of depth, the defensive problems in the backcourt, and the tendency to get stagnant on offense against zone defenses are still present and go a long way toward explaining why the Hawks rarely blow out inferior opposition but Johnson, Jamal Crawford, Josh Smith, and Al Horford can all score either often enough or efficiently enough for the Hawks to succeed despite playing just 10-15 minutes of effective defense most nights.
Philadunkia : We have been reading your blog as well as the AJC’s website and it’s apparent that coach Drew is not happy with Jeff Teague. What do you think he needs to improve on to escape the doghouse?
Bret LaGree@ hoopinionblog.com : It’s hard to say considering Teague plays so irregularly and his minutes have little correlation with either his performance or that of the guards above him on the depth chart. I would not be surprised if it’s something Teague is or isn’t doing off the court that’s holding him back but, if that’s the case, the Hawks have done a good job of keeping the particulars under wraps. It’s probably just a case of a rookie head coach with little job security overvaluing experience.
Two Points of Analysis from Bret LaGree@ hoopinionblog.com :
1) In Washington on Saturday night, Larry Drew played Marvin Williams, Damien Wilkins, and Mo Evans rather than Mike Bibby in the fourth quarter. It will be interesting to see if Drew’s become fed up with the porous D of the Bibby/Crawford backcourt and will begin to shore up the team’s defense down the stretch of games going forward.
2) Josh Smith has improved his shooting stroke and is on course to set career highs from beyond the arc, the free throw line, and on jump shots as a whole. The only problem with that is that he hasn’t augmented his success as a finisher in the paint with his improved jumper, he’s just taking a ton of jump shots. For example, on Saturday night, he took 19 shots in Al Horford’s absence, he scored 22 points on the 10 shots he took in the paint and 7 points on 9 jump shots.