Six straight losses are never fun, no matter the circumstance, but when those losses could serve as the impetus for missing the playoffs for the first time in more than a half-decade, things are even uglier. That is where the Atlanta Hawks find themselves as they enter a home game on Monday, but fortunately, their opponent is in a much worse position.
The lowly Philadelphia 76ers are in Atlanta for this particular match-up, and while they are coming off a win (!) over the Detroit Pistons, Philly is widely considered to be the worst team in the NBA right now, especially given their comical, 26-game losing streak. The Sixers enter Monday with the league's worst offense, scoring only 95.9 points per 100 possessions, and a bottom-5 defense, and frankly, they only have a small handful of NBA-caliber players, with only Thaddeus Young and Michael Carter-Williams serving as anything resembling a standout.
With that, the Hawks are in desperate need of a win, but not only because of the relative "ease" provided by their opponent. Atlanta currently holds a slim, 1-game lead for the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference after the New York Knicks escaped with a win on Sunday night, and frankly, losing to this version of the 76ers in what amounts to crunch time would be a calamity of epic proportions. The Knicks have a difficult schedule on the horizon, which provides some "hope" for a playoff berth regardless of how this team is playing, but even aside from that, this isn't a game that can be lost with a straight face.
Thaddeus Young is a notorious Hawks killer (averaging 23 points and 8 rebounds in the 2 previous meetings this season) and Michael Carter-Williams has the length to cause Jeff Teague and company problems in the backcourt, but from a match-up perspective, there is nothing to greatly fear. It will be incredibly interesting to a) see who is available to play with injury concerns to Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll, and b) see who Budenholzer elects to deploy given the Elton Brand "DNP" on Saturday night, but the moral of the story is that the Hawks need to win this one.
Game Date/Time: Monday, March 31, 7:30 p.m.
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM