76ers-Hawks Preview


With six games remaining, the Atlanta Hawks realize time is running out in their bid to secure home-court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Philadelphia 76ers are simply trying to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

The Hawks will try to stay within striking distance of the fourth spot in the East and push the visiting 76ers closer to elimination Friday night.

Atlanta (42-34) looks to wrap up its four-game homestand with three wins after a 95-82 loss to red-hot New York on Wednesday moved it further behind Brooklyn for fourth place.

The Hawks have an opportunity to make up some ground as they begin a final stretch that includes four games against teams with losing records.

These teams will meet again in Philadelphia on Wednesday, and they've split the first two matchups with each claiming a double-digit victory on its home floor.

Jeff Teague had 27 points and 11 assists and Al Horford added 21 and 12 rebounds as the Hawks shot 53.8 percent overall and hit 11 of 24 from 3-point range in a 107-96 home win March 6.

Josh Smith finished with 13 in that victory and scored 10 - his lowest point total in 18 games - on Wednesday. He might have a difficult time bouncing back since he's averaged 10.8 points on 32.3 percent shooting in his last five home games against the 76ers (30-44).

The Hawks had averaged 101.9 points while winning eight of 12 before Wednesday's loss in which they were outscored 23-10 over the final 9:48.

"(In) the fourth quarter, we made too many mental errors," coach Larry Drew said. "That allowed (New York) to create a little separation."

They now face a Philadelphia team that has allowed an average of 89.8 points in winning three of four. The 76ers, however, suffered a huge blow to their already fading playoff hopes with an 88-83 loss at league-worst Charlotte on Wednesday. Philadelphia will be eliminated with a loss and a Milwaukee win Friday.

"We have to finish these games off," coach Doug Collins said. "Although it's a situation where it looks like we might not make the playoffs, you've got to learn to make plays in games like this, whether you're playing Charlotte or Chicago in Game 6 of the playoffs."

If they hope to survive for another day, the 76ers will have to find a way to overcome their road struggles. They've dropped 17 of 19 away from Philadelphia and are 8-27 on the road.

Jrue Holiday, the team's leading scorer at 18.2 per game, hopes to recover from one of the worst performances of his career. He shot 2 of 24 on Wednesday, including a key miss in the final minute.

The All-Star point guard has averaged 9.5 points on 33.3 percent shooting in his last four games against the Hawks.

The 76ers have shot 40.7 percent from the field - 31.3 from beyond the arc - in their last three road games.

The Hawks snapped a six-game losing streak in this series last month.