The Hawks are now kind of where I thought the Sixers would be at this point a couple years back. They clawed their way out of the cellar and consistently improved to the point where they became a perennial playoff team. Unfortunately, it looks like that's where they'll probably top out. It's usually a pretty even contest when these teams meet, hopefully the Sixers can steal one in Atlanta.
Game capsule from first game vs. Atlanta
and second game at Atlanta
It looks like Al Horford will return from injury to play tonight, which is big for Atlanta, if he's healthy. Horford has killed the Sixers, and really the only thing that's held him back is Atlanta's inability to ride him for more offense.
The big matchup in this one is Iguodala vs. Joe Johnson. Johnson is having a decent year, and he's obviously worth his $120M+ contract, since he's scoring more than 20 points-per-game. Iguodala should be able to significantly slow Johnson down, assuming he gets the matchup. Jrue has had problems with Bibby in the past, but Bibby's game has deteriorated even further this season. On the other end, Jrue will again have every opportunity to break out of this terrible scoring slump. Bibby couldn't guard me, and Crawford isn't much better. I'm assuming Meeks will guard either Evans or Marvin Williams, whoever gets the start.
The big key on the defensive end will be defensive boards. Brand isn't really quick enough to guard either Horford or Josh Smith, and they'll both be crashing the boards. Hawes is, well, he's Spencer Hawes. Smith is a terrible matchup for Thad, he takes away the quickness advantage Thad usually enjoys over PFs.
Atlanta is basically a couple notches above average in both OFR and DFR. If this game was in Philly, I'd give the Sixers a better shot, but for some reason, they always seem to find a way to lose to the Hawks.
ATL 99, PHI 95
The tip is at 7pm, game thread will be up 90 minutes prior.