The Sixers string of erratic, maddening play continued last night in their worst performance of the year against the hapless Wizards. Tonight, they need to right the ship immediately and take care of their home floor against a weary Hawks team fresh off a tough win over the Knicks.
First, a few words about last night's atrocity: Don't ever let it happen again. Spencer Hawes has infected the Sixers front court with his softness, and it needs to stop. Every single team with a mindset to do so is exploiting Hawes and Vucevic to the point where nothing the other four guys on the floor with them does even matters. If a team with even middling big men sets its mind to attacking the Sixers down low, they're completely helpless.
With that in mind, here's your simple key to tonight's game. If Iguodala plays and you can somehow make Atlanta's offense about Joe Johnson trying to score, you should be able to hold them down. If it becomes about Zaza Pachulia pushing Hawes and Voose around on the inside, then you're in trouble.
Games don't get much bigger than this one. If the Sixers want the division title, they need the win. If they want any shot at home court in the first round, they need to take their remaining games against the teams currently in the #5 and #6 spots (IND and ATL) who have better records than them.
If they want the #7 seed and then a "hard-fought" loss in the first round to the Heat, again, well, then just keep doing what you did last night against the Wizards and we can all watch the same script as last season play out.
The Hawks had to rely on Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Jeff Teague for huge minutes against the Knicks last night while the Sixers main guys sat and watched a large part of the Wizards romp in Washington. Take the fight to them and maybe you pull out the split in this back-to-back, just not the type of split you would've expected coming in.
The tip is at 7pm. This is your game thread. I'll be here throughout, cursing Hawes, I'm sure. Join me if you've still got the stomach for it.
Prediction: PHI 94, ATL 79