The Atlanta Hawks (23-21) are in town tonight to face the 76ers (15-31) at 7:30 p.m.
The Hawks come in currently sitting in the 4th seed of the Eastern Conference. They are one of the few teams in the East that possess a winning record. This is the Sixers’ first time seeing this new-look Hawks squad, and they are sure to have their hands full tonight.
Ever since Al Horford went down for the season, Hawks forward Paul Millsap has taken scoring responsibilities into his own hands. On the season, the reigning NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week is putting up a career-high 17.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, career-best 3.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.2 blocks. He is the only player in the East, and one-of-two in the NBA, averaging at least 16.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks. Millsap was also announced as a reserve for the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Millsap will be up against Thaddeus Young’s lock down defense tonight, but it will be a formidable challenge for Thad tonight. Thad’s defense has been lights out over the past month, and the Sixers will need all the help they can get against Millsap tonight.
There will also be an intriguing point guard battle tonight as Michael Carter-Williams will be up against the talented Jeff Teague. Teague is averaging career highs in points (16.2), assists (7.3), and rebounds (2.8). However, he is also averaging a career high 3.4 turnovers per game. The Sixers length in their backcourt may give Teague issues as he tries to find passing lanes tonight.
The keys to a Sixers win tonight are pace, and execution. The Sixers need to play hard-nosed defense tonight. If they can create turnovers throughout the course of the game and then push the ball on the fast break for an efficient score, they will force the Hawks out of their comfort zone. Also, Spencer Hawes needs to come up big tonight on the defensive boards. The Sixers need to limit this team to one-shot possessions if they have any desire to win this game.
Finally, on offense, the Sixers need to take care of the ball, take efficient shots, and limit any stupid mistakes. There seems to be a play or two each game that makes the Sixers look like an amateur team. The Hawks will take advantage of bad misses, turnovers, and stupid mistakes.
PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Kyle Korver
SF: DeMarre Carroll
PF: Paul Millsap
C: Gustavo Ayon
PG: Michael Carter-Williams
SG: Evan Turner
SF: James Anderson
PF: Thaddeus Young
C: Spencer Hawes
Prediction: For some reason, the Sixers have had success against the Hawks in recent years, so I have a hard time picking them to lose this game. However, both of these teams are vastly different than they have been the past few years. With that being said, the Hawks come out and beat the Sixers at their own game. Sixers struggle to score on offense and drop this one. Final score 98-78 Hawks. I also predict Elton Brand gets a good reception from the crowd tonight as he returns for the first time as a Hawk.
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