A loss to the lowly Philadelphia 76ers would signal the end for the Atlanta Hawks‘ playoff hopes this season. Atlanta currently holds the no. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, but only by a slim margin over the New York Knicks after a colossal downfall in the past few months. However, as bad as the Hawks are playing right now, there is no excuse to lose to Philadelphia.
The 76ers are one of the worst teams in the NBA right now, and just ended their abysmal 26-game losing streak with a win over the Detroit Pistons. While the victory certainly raises some concerns for Atlanta, this is the same team that came within one loss of setting a new record for the most consecutive losses by any team in NBA history. One game doesn’t make you world-beaters, even if you did beat your opponent by 25 points.
Either way, Atlanta can’t come into this game unprepared. Any team can win on any given night in this league, and if the Hawks don’t come out ready to play, they may suffer the same fate as the Pistons. This means the leaders on this team, Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap, have to bring their A-games to the floor. When these two get their games going, the rest of the team usually follows their lead and the result is a win most of the time for Atlanta.
This is especially true of Millsap, who has succumbed to some poor nights shooting the basketball of late. The Hawks’ lone NBA All-Star was a major reason for the team’s success in the early going and needs to get back to this same level of play again in order to help the team win games. He should have no trouble getting anything he wants down low against a weaker Philadelphia lineup. Thaddeus Young is the likely candidate to guard him and he’s not the best defender in the post due to his lack of size.
However, if Millsap is not up to the challenge, the Hawks could be in danger of losing this game. They should have enough healthy players on their roster in order to get the job done, but now is not the time to underachieve. The season is on the line and if this team wants to make the playoffs, these are the kind of games Atlanta must win.