Today's Sixers/Hawks game isn't going to be about how good the Sixers are. It isn't going to be about Philly trying to prove something on the road, beat a playoff-bound team at full strength. It's going to be about what this Atlanta team is made of.
The Hawks took a monumental beating at the hands of the Orlando Magic Friday night. Put it this way, Orlando's 5 starters had a combined +172 +/- number. The Hawks were just demolished. This will be their first game back, they've lost 3 of 4 (2 to Orlando). If the Hawks are for real, the Sixers will be walking into a hornets nest at 2pm today. If the Hawks have any doubt in their minds, they could be a badly damaged team. Either way, we should know early.
Not much of a surprise in the numbers. The Hawks shoot the three very well, they take care of the ball, they're an average rebounding team and decent defensive team. They're as good as their record, but capable of playing much better or much worse.
The key for the Sixers is going to be to withstand whatever emotional run the Hawks go on early, if they rally and play for pride. The second key is going to be erasing the memory of the last time they played in Atlanta. The Sixers came out on fire in that game, outscoring Atlanta 36-18 in the first quarter. They then spent the next three quarters gradually blowing the lead. They were outscored 29-13 in the fourth when Joe Johnson finally put them out of their misery.
These teams play a similar style with a few key differences. The Sixers are a better running team, and a better defensive team, when fully healthy and playing up to potential. The Hawks are a far superior shooting team. I'm really looking forward to the Thad Young/Joe Smith matchup, and I'm also interested to see who winds up guarding Joe Johnson. If it's Willie Green for too long, it's going to be a long night.
I'm going to be watching this one on delay, the Eagles/Giants game is going to have my full attention and then there will be a period of celebration or recovery, depending on the outcome. Expect my post game some time tonight. If you're one of the few Sixers fans, non-Eagles fans, leave your thoughts in the comments here and I'll reply after I watch the game.
Four in a row against what should be a motivated Hawks team, in Atlanta would be a clear sign that this team has turned the corner.
Tip is at 2pm.