Hawks look for statement win at home versus the 76ers

dhz190128183 atl vs lac

Two games down, and it’s an unexpected team atop of the Eastern Conference. Atlanta is 2-0, led by Trae Young, who leads the NBA in points per game (38.5) while adding nine assists in wins over two teams that made the playoffs in the East last year.

Still, wins over the Magic and Pistons aren’t raising many eyebrows yet, at least not enough of them, but the NBA world might take a step back if the Hawks can start 3-0 by knocking off the 76ers tonight at State Farm Arena.

Philadelphia also sits at 2-0 after making some substantial changes to their roster this offseason. They stole Al Horford from the Celtics, who was a thorn in their side in the postseason, then sent Jimmy Butler to South Beach. In return for Butler, Philly also added Josh Richardson – a long, athletic two-guard – adding to what has the potential to be the best defensive starting five in basketball.

The Sixers beat Boston in their home opener and followed it with a road win in Detroit. They are giving up 102 points per contest, and scoring 112 on 27 assists a game.

The Hawks, meanwhile, have actually been one of the better defensive teams to date, allowing just 99.5 points per game. That probably won’t continue for very long. Last year, Atlanta was the third-worst defensive team in the league, ahead of only the Cavs and Suns, but the additions of the Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, and Bruno Fernando through the draft are paying early dividends. All three are playing significant minutes, and all three are impact defensive players. However, this is a group that loves to play fast, run the floor, and shoot threes, and that’s what they’re going to be known for at the end of the year.

Atlanta is currently shooting 51.2% from the field and averaging 111.0 per contest. They’re also turning the ball over less – 15.5 per game this year (12th in the NBA) compared to 18 last year (30th in the NBA). The 76ers will provide their toughest test to date, especially defensively, as they chase turnovers and run in transition, with Ben Simmons leading the way at the point.

Young didn’t have much trouble against Simmons as a rookie, averaging 23.5 points and 9.0 assists in four games, as the Hawks won three of them. Simmons, however, got his, averaging a triple-double on 57.9% shooting from the field. With Richardson being the shortest player in the Sixers starting lineup at 6’6″, it will be interesting to see what looks they throw at Young, who has been too much for just one defender.

While the edge lies with the 76ers starters, the Hawks’ bench has been a much-improved bunch so far this season. DeAndre’ Bembry is becoming more reliable on the offensive end on top of his elite defense, the newly acquired Jabari Parker has become their bucket-getter off the bench, and either Kevin Huerter or Cam Reddish provides a sharpshooting element. The Sixers, on the other hand, sold their soul in creating their starting lineup.

Mike Scott is currently their leading scorer off the bench with 11.5 points per game. Next is James Ennis at only six points per contest. Philadelphia’s starting five is championship caliber. It might be the best five-man unit in the league, but they are going to have to upgrade their bench throughout the season if they want to hoist the Larry O’Brien. If the Hawks plan on moving to 3-0, you have to think their second unit wins the battle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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