The Philadelphia 76ers (3-2) look to take on their Eastern Conference Semifinals rival, The Atlanta Hawks (3-2), Saturday at The Wells Fargo Center.
After narrowly defeating the Detroit Pistons in Thursday’s matchup, the Sixers look to get some wins under their belt while opening up some old wounds the Hawks inflicted on them from last year’s playoffs.
What Sixers Learned From Last Year’s Playoff Meltdown
The Sixers-Hawks matchups will sour the mouths of Philly fans for years to come. The Eastern Conference Semi-Finals of last year won’t be forgotten, and for all the wrong reasons. After handing the city one of the worst losses in Philadelphia history with the 26 point collapse in Game 5 and an aggravating loss in Game 7, the Sixers need to learn from their past mistakes when facing the Hawks moving forward.
Doc Rivers was notorious for his all-bench lineups in the Hawks-Sixers series and has teased Sixers fans this year with its return. Looking back to last year, the all-bench lineup killed the Sixers in crucial moments and has even lost them the game (i.e., Game 1). Doc needs to recognize not only for this game but for the rest of the season that this method will not work and will only tarnish the momentum that the starters bring to the game.
The Sixers cannot also forget that the Hawks have weapons other than Trae Young. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kevin Huerter, and Danilo Gallinari were key participants in taking down the Sixers and were overlooked at the start of the series. These shooters will no doubt get their dues, but the Sixers need to be proactive and slow them down in their tracks before they get a hot hand.
Slowing Down Young is Key
Slowing Trae Young is absolutely pivotal for the Sixers to gain leverage over the Hawks. In last years playoff matchup, Trae was explosive and dominated the Sixers with his offensive prowess. During the 7 game playoff series, Young put up impressive stats of 29 PPG, 10.9 APG and was shooting 32.3% from beyond the arc.
In his first 5 games this season, Young is already averaging 24.2 PPG and 10 APG. With Simmons out until further notice, strong defensive players like Danny Green and Matisse Thybulle need to man Young and make him work for his numbers.
Not Cracking Under Pressure
The start of this season has led the Sixers spiraling down their famous old habit of choking in the 4th quarter. The Sixers already have had two instances of going 4+ minutes of scoring zero FG’s late in the game, and they’re only 5 games into the season. The team needs to nip this issue in the bud before it starts becoming a habit and causing Sixers fans more headaches.
The Sixers are in dire need of a closer, someone they can put the ball in the hands of late in the game, knowing they can close out effectively. Embiid has never been one to play long stretches of the game, and with an uncertain knee injury, this is becoming unlikely. Seth Curry or Tobias Harris are the likely candidates and have to prove themselves as consistent scorers to maintain leads going forward.
The Sixers are 3.5 point favorites in this game, with tip-off starting at 7:30pm at the Wells Fargo Center.