With last night’s victory over the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76’ers closed to within 2.5 games of the slumping Hawks who are losers of 8 of their last 11 games and 14 of their last 21. With the Hawks in a potential free fall and the Sixers steady progression what are the chances of the Sixers gaining the 5th seed which would place them against the Orlando Magic. If that’s the case, what happens then?
The Hawks mental state has been described by their coach John Drew as “fragile” when your last four defeats are by an average of 18.5 points I can suspect some apprehension in the locker room. What’s surprising about this version of the Hawks is that they’re a veteran group that IMO got rid of a coach in Mike Woodson that had them prepared every night. I can’t say the same for Drew. I’m not saying he’s lost them but when it comes to leadership from someone, anyone in the ATL, I’m hard pressed to find any.
Of the Hawks 10 remaining games, they have an even split of home and away dates, among their remaining road games are dates with the Wizards and Bobcats – Houston is their only road opponent with a winning record. Three games on the Hawks schedule stick out – games at Cleveland, Houston and Indiana. I have the Hawks winning two of three, but expect anything. I have the Hawks going 5-5 -,6-4 at best to finish out at 45-37.
As for the Sixers, all of their road games are tough ones and I have them losing out. Miami, Chicago, Milwaukee and Boston. The game in Milwaukee is on the back end of back to back games and the Celtics contest is the first of back to back games in where they face the Knicks the following night.
The Bucks game can go either way – looking back on their last visit there doesn’t give me much confidence. Maybe the Bucks pack it in at this point – depends on what the Indiana Pacers do. Of course the Knicks game is critical and playoff positioning will be at stake.
I have them winning out at home (7 games) the game against Orlando I have them winning easily because the Magic are a solid #4 seed and will more than likely rest their starters. Which makes the game against the Knicks the most important home game remaining.
I have the Sixers finishing out the season at 7-4 (44-38 overall) – a 17-game improvement, but not enough to finish ahead of the Hawks for the #5 seed if everything holds true.
But as we know anything can happen, finishing anywhere from 5th to 7th are strong possibilities. The first tie-breaker for the Sixers and Hawks is conference victories in which the Hawks have a current 27-21 advantage.