Vivlamore reporting from Philadelphia.
In what has become a recurring theme, the Hawks will be short-handed against the Sixers.
Tracy McGrady (illness) and Jerry Stackhouse (personal) did not make the trip to Philly. Vladimir Radmanovic (back) will also not play. Jannero Pargo (appendectomy) remains out.
To the game: The Sixers lead the NBA in both scoring defense (allowing 87.7 points per game) and field goal defense (allowing opponents just 42 percent shooting).
“We have to be solid on both ends of the floor,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “They lead the league in field goal defense because they do such a good job of rotating. When you play against a team that does that well, you have to be committed to moving the basketball and making the extra pass. You can’t get stagnant and play a lot of one-on-one because you play right into what they want to do. We are going to have to be totally, totally committed to moving the ball tonight, more so than we have the whole season. If you allow them to load up on one side of the floor you are playing right into their hands.”
I asked Drew how satisfying last night’s win over the Knicks (and former Hawks coach Mike Woodson) was. He took the high road.
“I got the most satisfaction because we had lost two games in a row,” Drew said. “I told the guys before the game, our focus has to be, as we wind the regular season down, we want to finish strong. We want to be playing well toward the end and carry momentum.
“A lot was made about Woodson coming back to Atlanta and that whole thing. But our focus has to be the Atlanta Hawks and what we need to do. We haven’t played consistent in long stretches enough to get caught up in that. Our focus has to be us.”
The Sixers feature three local products in Louis Williams (South Gwinnett High), Thaddeus Young (Georgia Tech) and Jodie Meeks (Norcross High). Drew is particularly concerned with Williams and Young coming off the bench. Williams leads the Sixers in total points despite not having started a game this season.
“They are both guys when they come into the game, they change the game,” Drew said. “Louis is one of the best scorers in our league and Thaddeus has another motor. You have to combat that. You can’t allow both guys to come in and get going.”
Finally after tonight’s game – the Hawks’ seventh in nine days – they have three days off before playing their next game. Drew said he will give the team at least one day off, maybe two.