Before the Hawks played the Knicks a couple weekends back, L.D. put 7-2 out there as the record to shoot for before the All-Star break. So I told him the Hawks had to win three of their next four to get it.
“We want 8-1,” he said, smiling.
This game might have looked like a gimme at one point but not anymore. For one thing, Al is sitting out another game with the bruised back. Zaza is starting in his place.
L.D. said Al ended up deciding his back was better off not taking a pounding. Plus, the Hawks don’t play again until Saturday.
“I actually gave it some thought this morning even before he made his decision,” L.D. said. “Certainly I want him out there but if there is any kind of inkling about him having any kind of discomfort or concern about [if] his back can take the pounding it just makes more sense to keep him out. He gets another four days for treatment and rest.”
So playing without their All-Star center complicates things for the Hawks. Also, don’t forget the Hawks were down 18 to Philly before rallying for a W on Dec. 3.
“I still don’t know how we won that game,” Jamal said.
In the first meeting, Philly jumped out to an 11-2 lead and the Hawks had to hold off a late rally. Al had 20 and 12 in that one.
“It seems like we are always behind when we play them,” J.J. said. “We have to come out with the mindset to get off to a good start, especially against their bigs.”
The Sixers lost to New York Sunday after bearing the Knicks on Friday. They are 6-4 in their last 10 with Ws against Denver and Utah.
“They are a very, very dangerous team because they never feel or play like they are out of the game even if they are down,” L.D. said. “They have had some very quality wins. They play hard; they keep coming. They play with a blue-collar mentality of outworking you and grinding it out. . . . You can’t look at their record, where they stand in the standings. You have got to look at who that team is, and the kind of personality they have.”
The other side
Sixers coach Doug Collins on the Hawks without Al: “He’s an All-Star center. When you come in with Pachulia off the bench he gives you such energy and toughness. I have known they have been starting Jason, so I don’t know if they will start him or come in with Paculia. It changes it a little bit; they play big a lot. They will play Hoford as a power forward, they can go with Pachulia, they can go with Josh Smith as a three. They have a lot of flexibility. With [Horford] not out there they will definitely miss him but they have a lot of big guys.”
Collins on J.J. vs. Jodie Meeks: “I don’t know that Jodie can play him. We might have to have a little cross-matching. This might be a game where I have to sub early, just because their wings are so big. This ream reminds me of Charlotte with how big the wings are and they post them up. [The Hawks] are a better shooting team, and with their 3-point shooters it makes it harder to guard the post.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat