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No Losing Streak: Sixers Look to Protect Home Court Against Atlanta

Jan 20, 2012, 5:34 PM EDT

The Sixers hope to rebound from a tough Nuggets loss with a win against the undersized Atlanta Hawks.

Last year, the Philadelphia 76ers had a mantra of sorts under then-new
coach Doug Collins: “We don’t lose two in a row at home.” Humble
ambitions, maybe, but for a team that won less than 30 games the year
before, it was a definite point of pride. And indeed, the team only lost
consecutive games at home twice all year—the first two and the last
two. We can only guess that the ’11-’12 Sixers, with their 10-4 record
and unexpected Atlantic division supremacy, hold themselves to similar,
if not higher standards this year—one of the many reasons we hope they
can pull off a W at the WFC tonight against the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks have been something of a surprise team this year in the
East—not as surprising as the Sixers, perhaps, since the Hawks have made
the playoffs the last four years and won a first-round series each of
the last three—but many expected Atlanta to regress without sixth man
Jamal Crawford and an injured Kirk Hinrich (and now Al Horford). But the
Hawks have flown high, a half-game better than the Sixers at 11-4,
including an impressive 4-0 record since losing the two-time All-Star
big man Horford to a torn pec muscle. The play of Josh Smith is a
primary reason why, having a career year with his 17 and 9 on 50%
shooting, but the team’s bench has also been better than expected, with
vets like Tracy McGrady and one-time Sixer Willie Green making solid
contributions, along with rookie scrapper (and Barkley favorite) Ivan
Johnson.

The Sixers will need to face their conference foe again without the
services of starting center Spencer Hawes, who sits again with a
strained Achilles. Luckily, unlike the first two games the Sixers played
without Hawes (against the Knicks and Nuggets, both losses), they don’t
face any dominant big men in this game—undersized power forward Smith
can likely be checked by Andre Iguodala, and without Horford, the only
other real bigs the Hawks have are defense-first types like Jason
Collins and Zaza Pachulia. Spencer will still be missed, especially if
rookie Nik Vucevic can’t stay on the court, but hopefully his absence
won’t be quite the killer it was against New York and Denver.

7:00 tip from the WFC. By the way, even if Spencer can’t make it on the
court tonight (or tomorrow against Miami, in all likelihood), you should
all know that he’s at least remaining productive off the court—who else
is crazy excited for the Hawes/Turner dual podcast??