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News » 76ers-Hawks Preview

76ers-Hawks Preview

76ers-Hawks Preview
Nine years have passed since the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks both made the playoffs in the same season. That streak isn't likely to last much longer.

The 76ers have a chance to secure a postseason spot when they open a home-and-home series with the Hawks on Friday night.

Philadelphia (38-37) will clinch its first playoff berth in four years with a win over Atlanta (35-40), or if both New Jersey and Indiana lose on Friday.

The 76ers, in a tie with Toronto and Washington for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, have won 20 of their last 27 games.

"When we do get to the playoffs, we want to be playing the type of basketball we've been playing for a long time," Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said.

Strong road play has helped spur the 76ers' run. Philadelphia has won seven of its last nine away from Wachovia Center, including a 108-99 victory over New Jersey on Tuesday night.

Atlanta, meanwhile, has won six straight at home and five in a row overall, moving four games ahead of New Jersey and Indiana for the eighth playoff spot in the East. The Hawks, a victory away from recording their winningest season since going 50-32 in 1997-98, haven't made the playoffs since 1999.

That's the last time Philadelphia and Atlanta were both in the postseason.

The Hawks still need to play well down the stretch to end their drought. They have matched up well with the 76ers this season, holding them to 85.0 points per game and 42.2 percent shooting from the field en route to winning both meetings.

Atlanta has limited Sixers leading scorer Andre Iguodala to an average of 16.5 points on 36.4 percent shooting (12-for-33) in those victories.

A key reason for the ineffectiveness of Iguodala and Philadelphia's offense in the season series has been Atlanta's Josh Smith, who has averaged 6.5 blocks and 3.0 steals in the two games. Smith also has contributed 20.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

But it was Smith's 3-point shooting that saved the Hawks on Wednesday night. The fourth-year forward made two shots from beyond the arc in overtime to lead Atlanta to a 127-120 victory over Toronto.

"I'm not a 3-point shooter," said Smith, who is shooting 26.9 percent from 3-point range. "But if it comes to me, I'll take it."

Smith helped the Hawks score 100 points or more for the fifth straight game, their first such streak since the final five contests of 2003-04. The last time Atlanta reached triple digits in scoring in six straight games was an eight-game run from Nov. 26-Dec. 14, 1993.

"We're confident," said Smith, averaging 25.0 points in the last two games. "We feel good about ourselves. We feel like the sky's the limit for this team. We're not taking nights off."

Philadelphia, however, has allowed more than 100 points only once in its last six games, a 121-99 loss to Chicago on March 26, and has surrendered 96.0 points a contest on the season.

Atlanta guard Joe Johnson had a 28-point performance versus the Raptors, but is averaging 16.6 - more than five below his season average - in two games against Philadelphia this season.

The Sixers and Hawks will meet at Philadelphia on Saturday night.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: April 3, 2008


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