The last time we saw the Philadelphia 76ers, (most of) the sellout crowd at THE CENTER treated the team to a rousing ovation on Saturday night. The applause came after their 108-105 loss to the Golden State Warriors - a game in which Sixers valiantly fought back from a 24-point second half deficit and almost pulled off the biggest upset of the NBA season.
As we all know, almost only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and moral victories. However, there haven't been any moral victories - or victories of any sort - for the Sixers whenever the Hawks have shown up on the schedule this season.
Brett Brown and Co. have been absolutely manhandled by Atlanta during the 2015-16 campaign, losing both of their previous matchups by more than 20 points. On the positive side of the ledger, Jahlil Okafor has done well against the Hawks (20.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG), and Nerlens Noel pulled down 13 rebounds when these two teams last met in early January.
Given the fact that both Brett Brown and Mike Budenholzer worked under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, maybe it's no surprise that the far more talented Hawks (who are striving to be Spurs East) have won nine of their last 10 games against the Sixers (the Bizarro World version of the Spurs).
Real recognize real... and several players on benches tonight are all too familiar with one another. Nik Stauskas and Tim Hardaway Jr. played in the same backcourt at the University of Michigan. Justin Holiday enjoyed a large cup of coffee in Philadelphia two years ago, and even Thabo Sefolosha was a Sixer for 37 minutes. Former Hawk Elton Brand likely won't take off his warmups and/or suit, but former Sixer Kyle Korver - who has been in a slump for much of the season - will look to regain the form that earned him the "Sniper" moniker during his days alongside Allen Iverson.
One-time Sixer (in spirit) and current Hawks' Manager of Basketball Operations Malik Rose will be watching the action from a luxury suite as he ponders a trade for Future Hawk Ish Smith. And, if we're lucky, future 76ers' anthem singer Nicki Minaj will be sitting courtside with Meek Mill. Lord knows that the Sixers can use all of the help they can get.