This Wednesday 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 reeling Atlanta Hawks, who simply got a beat down from the Chicago Bulls last night.
In our opinion the Sixers should absolutely win this game tonight and thus pull to within 2.5 games of the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. We say this with confidence for three reasons.
The first reason is that despite their 1-2 record vs. Atlanta in 2010-11, the Sixers have played very well, in fact very well at times, vs. the Hawks this year. The Hawks won 104-101 in a nip and tuck affair at Philadelphia back on Oct. 29thwhen the Sixers were still finding their way under Doug Collins. Of course who can forget the major meltdown in the final seconds that led to the 93-88 debacle in Atlanta on December 3rd (The 76ers led from the first basket of the game until the final 31 seconds). To be honest, the Hawks were extremely lucky to pull that one out at home. Then on February 8th, the Sixers administered a 117-83 ass-whoopin’ to the Hawks in Atlanta. In typical Sixers fashion, they put six players in double figures that night on their way to completely dominating the game. So despite what the lineups say on paper and less then .500 the series record this year, there is no doubt this 7-6 squad gives this Hawks team fits.
Another reason the Sixers win this game tonight is that the NBA scheduling gods have smiled upon our team. Atlanta showed up for a game last night against the Chicago Bulls (Notice we didn’t say they played.), answered some post game media questions and then boarded a late flight to Philly for the second half of a home-then away back-to-back set. NBA players hate this type of back-to-back games. There is no doubt the Hawks will be tired and on the brink of collapsing mentally. Meanwhile the Sixers have been off and at home since Sunday. So they are rested and ready to go for this contest down at the WFC tonight where they are 22-11 on the season.
Lastly, the Hawks are a reeling mess right now and the Sixers will take advantage of that fact. Forget about the fact that they trailed by 40 at one point during their demoralizing loss to Chicago last night – at home no less. Take a look at Atlanta’s stats going back as far as the All-Star break. Atlanta is 1-3 in their last four; 3-7 in their last 10 and 6-10 since returning from the All-Star Game (including a 4 game losing streak earlier this month). Additionally, the Hawks last three Ls have been by 33 (CHI), 21 (MIA) and 15 (DEN) points. Those embarrassing losses were only broken up by a win over the hopeless Pistons. So, things in Atlanta have been on the down-slide for some time and they seem to be getting worse for the Hawks down the stretch here in 2010-11.
Yes, on paper the Hawks are a more talented, more athletic and deeper squad. And yes, their young and skilled frontline (Al Horford, Marvin Williams, Zaza Pachulia and Josh Smith if you wish) especially presents some significant problems for the 76ers. Still, we don’t care about those items tonight. For the reasons listed above the Sixers should rack up another win tonight.
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. http://www.hoopinionblog.com/?gcid=C12289x022>kw=Hoopinion
Philadunkia : Now that the Sixers have passed the slumping NYK and moved in the 6thspot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, we’re getting greedy and setting our sights on your Hawks and the fifth spot. So here in Philadelphia Wednesday night’s matchup with the Hawks is being viewed as a huge game in the move to grab the fifth seed. Is there any importance being placed on this game by the Hawks faithful?
Bret LaGree@ hoopinionblog.com : In all honesty, fans in Atlanta are more concerned with the regular beatings the Hawks are taking at the hands of playoff teams than with playoff seeding. There are two assumptions being made, one explicit (there are enough winnable games left on the schedule that the Hawks should be able to hold on to the fifth seed) and one implicit (if the Hawks don’t play better basketball, playoff seeding and matchups will be irrelevant.
Philadunkia : After the debacle against Chicago last night, the Hawks are now 4-7 in the month of March. What have been one or two of the issues that have plagued the Hawks this month?
Bret LaGree@ hoopinionblog.com : The main issue that has plagued the Hawks this month is the schedule. They had far and away the easiest schedule in the league prior to the All-Star break and their results have suffered as competition has stiffened.
Two Points of Analysis from Bret LaGree@ hoopinionblog.com :
1) The trade of Mike Bibby for Kirk Hinrich hasn’t had much of an impact so far. Larry Drew hasn’t fully committed to the possibility of improved perimeter defense, continuing to play Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson together rather than having either Hinrich or Jeff Teague on the court at all times.
2) Drew has made the overdue commitment to use Zaza Pachulia as a third big man. Pachulia has always played better when given regular playing time, has always played well in tandem with Al Horford, and the rest of the frontcourt bench is terrible. As with the Hinrich acquisition, Pachulia’s increased role has come too late to make a real difference in the regular season but offers a slim ray of hope for improved play come playoff time.