Friday, December 21, 7:00 PM (EST) at Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
15-8 (2nd Southeast, 12th West)
12-14 (4th Atlantic, 10th East)
TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic FM | Live Stats
NOTE: The Comcast Network HD is now on XFinity® Channel 856
by Warren Croxton and Max Rappaport
MATCHUP TO WATCH
G Lou Williams vs. G Nick Young
After spending the first seven years of his career in Philadelphia, Lou Williams signed with his hometown Atlanta Hawks as a free agent this summer. A second-round pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, Williams averaged 11.3 points, while shooting 42.1% from the floor in his time with Philadelphia. Last season, the South Gwinnett High School graduate boasted a career high in scoring (14.9 PPG), which led the team. In his first season with Atlanta, the 6-3 guard has averaged 14.3 points per game in 26.1 minutes a night off the bench. His 41.4 FG% is his highest since the 2009-10 season.
Brought in partially to help fill the void left by Williams, guard Nick Young has lived up to his reputation as a microwave scorer – one that can get hot at any moment. The USC alum, like many such scorers, has had both hot and cold stretches this season, scoring in double figures in five straight games earlier in the season and following that up with five games scoring fewer than 10 points. Young has scored 59 points in his last three games, including a season-high 30 points against the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday, December 16. In his 22 games with Philadelphia, Young has averaged 10.6 points on 40.1% shooting and 35.5% from the three-point line.
A disciple of Sixers legend Allen Iverson, Lou Williams prides himself on his ability to get to the free-throw line. In the Hawks’ win over the Washington Wizards this past Tuesday, the he went just 6-of-18 from the floor, but got to the line 11 times, making 10 of those attempts. He finished with a season-high 24 points. Keeping Williams out of the lane and off the line will be key in limiting his effectiveness Friday night.
A Rebuild? Not So Fast...
The Atlanta Hawks, under the direction of newly hired President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Danny Ferry, went into this summer with the goal of shedding long-term salary in order to set themselves up for the future. However, the team has gotten out to a surprising 15-8 record this year, putting them in third place in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks have lost two out of their last three games, after winning 12 of 15 before that. Led by head coach Larry Drew, Atlanta is led by forward Josh Smith and big man Al Horford who lead the team in scoring and rebounding, respectively. Smith is the only player in the NBA to average at least 16.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game this season.
The Hawks rank in the top-10 in points allowed per game (94.4) and have a defensive rating of 101.4 points per 100 possessions (fifth in the NBA). The impetus for their success on the defensive end has been their ability to hold their opponents to just 43.7% from the field (seventh in the league). They’ve also committed the fewest fouls in the NBA.
Mix and Match
With the departure of veteran guard Joe Johnson, head coach Larry Drew has found himself shuffling his lineup to adjust. In 22 games this season, Drew has used eight different starting units so far. He used just 11 different starting lineups all of last season. Only guard Jeff Teague, Josh Smith and Al Horford have started at least 20 games for the Hawks this season and nine total players have started at least one game for the Hawks. Former Sixer forward Kyle Korver, after coming off the bench for most of his last eight seasons, has been plugged into the starting lineup along with swingman DeShawn Stevenson to help fill Joe Johnson’s shoes.
LAST TIME THEY MET
3/31/2012 - Philadelphia 95, Atlanta 90
Elton Brand went 10-of-12 from the floor, scoring 25 points, as the Sixers defeated Atlanta 95-90. Brand had double-double, finishing with 10 rebounds and five assists to go along with his 25. Josh Smith finished with a season-high 34 points on 12-of-18 from the field in his team’s loss. The Sixers scored 33 points in the fourth quarter, after falling behind by six after three. Philadelphia also made six of their 12 threes in the game.