The 76ers and Atlanta Hawks were at halftime as I typed these very words.  Yes, it is my recap and should be followed after the ball game.  However, the way we dismantled the Atlanta Hawks in the first half, racing out to a 65-33 lead, granted me the ability to begin this recap early. 

Was I cheating by getting a head start?  No, just confident the 76ers (24-27) who’ve played inspired basketball of late had the game in the bag.  The 33 point total amassed by the Atlanta Hawks was their lowest first-half output this season.  The Sixers’ 65 points were the most allowed in a first half by Atlanta this season.  Uninspired, disengaged and hopeless seemed to be a fitting adjectives for the Hawks who were without all-star big Al Horford.  

It sort of reminded me of the way the Hawks played last postseason when they limped to seven games against a depleted Bucks team and were swept by the Orlando Magic in the second round.

Sixers’ forward Elton Brand set the tone early by scoring 11 points as the 7-6 raced out to a 33-15 lead in the first quarter.  Brand’s performance thus far is a continuation from his weekend series against the Knicks when he tallied 61 points and 21 rebounds.  Brand has benefited from playing a Horford-less Hawks team and a offensive-orientated Knicks club. 

Thanks to the attitude EB established, we confidently attacked the basket and scored 21 fast-break points.  The Sixers strong start produced 64.3 shooting percentage from the floor.  The pace was too overwhelming for an uninterested Hawks team to keep up.  Andre Iguodala put together an awesome all-around first half with eight points, seven rebounds and six assists (triple-double watch).  Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday combined for 20 of the 65 first half points. 

When the second half started I watched just incase the Sixers somehow were to blow this one (unfortunately, we’ve seen it happen before)…

Unlike so many of our contests we didn’t blow this lead. 

The Sixers didn’t miss a beat in the second half running out of Atlanta with a 117-83 lead.  The mark is the third of four wins on the road for the Sixers.  The improvement of play away from home is a good sign that this team is maturing especially with pending road games against the Timberwolves, Grizzlies and Rockets.  Those games will take place after a daunting back-to-back home appearance with the Spurs and Magic. 

A hot start similar to the Hawks outing would be beneficial against those superior foes.  Iguodala’s triple-double watch fell off as he only added three points and a pair of assists.  His services weren’t needed with Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks, Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young all scoring in the double digits.  With quality production from all assets on the floor, things are beginning to look up for the 76ers. 

Is it unreasonable to think this team potentially could surpass our expectations even further to close the season.  At 24-27, having won seven of last nine ball games, this team has narrowed the gap with the Knicks for the sixth seed.  Despite losing to them on Sunday, we remain only three games behind Amare’s ball club.

If the postseason began today we would most likely face the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat.  Either team would be a devastating matchup for our beloved squad, and we’d likely face being swept.  However, reaching a sixth seed, and potentially facing a Bulls, Hawks or Magic team would be more favorable. 

Not saying we can overcome either of those teams in a seven game series, but it could be a competitive match considering were 3-4 against those three opponents.  Verse the Eastern Conference favorites — Miami and Boston — we’ve lost all four games. 

For those few of you still holding on to hope of missing the postseason to re-enter the NBA Lottery Draft (Charles Barkley), sorry that’s starting to seem more and more unlikely.  We understand this team is not a championship contender and the team’s ceiling is still years away.  But for what Doug Collins has done in his first year as a head coach is rather astonishing.  No one, and I mean no one, expected this team to be in the playoff hunt approaching All-Star Weekend.  Now that we are, lets hope we’re able to fight and gain postseason experience against a formidable opponent. 

Maybe we’ll push a team like the Hawks to a seven game series?  Who knows.  What’s starting to become inevitable though, is we’ll be worrying about the future of the franchise via NBA Draft at a later mark than most teams.  

Philadunkia Notes:

  • Did you notice that Mo Speights did not enter the game until there was 5:46 remaining?  Even Darius Songaila had already seen a few ticks by that point.  Of course once Speights was in the game he wasted no time getting in the box score, shooting the ball the first time he touched it.  BUCKETS…
  • The game was played in the ATL, so of course Louis Williams mom was in attendance and she got plenty of face time on TV.  We have to wonder who she was talking to one the phone in the 1st Q that she was turned around in her seat for an extended period of time and wasn’t even watching her son play. 
  • Williams, Thad and Turner made 10 of 17 shots in the first half and grabbed nine rebounds.  Atlanta’s bench in the first half was 5-for-15 with three rebounds.
  • For the most part Turner had a solid game, but boy did Jeff Teague give Turner trouble, blowing by him on several trips down the court. 
  • With the Magic visiting the WFC tonight it was great that Collins was able to get EB, Dre and the other starters some rest last night.
  • Of course has the highlights of the Sixers huge W in the ATL

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