Is the fifth-seed in the East a real possibility for the Sixers

Lou Williams and the Sixers are 3.5 games behind the Hawks for the fifth seed. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)

The Atlanta Hawks come to Philly to play the Sixers tonight, fresh off last night's 30-point loss to the visiting Chicago Bulls. Was that an aberration or is this team close to being in a free-fall. If so, catching them for the fifth-seed, and a probable playoff matchup with the Orlando Magic, seems possible.

The Sixers beat the Hawks on February 8 in Atlanta by 34 points. Since then, the Hawks have gone 7-13.

The fifth-seed would seem to be a much better option for the Sixers, as if they stay in their current spot at No. 6, they would most likely play the Miami Heat. Though they have played the Heat tough this season, that would be a tough series to climb out of. The Magic appear to be a much better matchup for the Sixers.

So here are some keys to tonight's game for the Sixers.

*Get out to a good start. Coming off a crushing loss at home then having to travel is tough for a team. If they fall behind early, doubt and fatigue will come in real fast for the Hawks.

*Contain the inside scoring. All-Star Al Horford didn't play in the February loss, and the Sixers will have to be able to limit him and Josh Smith's inside scoring.

*Get productivity from the deeper bench guys. Coach Doug Collins has said that he is going to be using forward Andres Nocioni and center Tony Battie more because of their experience. The bench, with Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young in particular, has been a strong point. Battie and Nocioni need to add to that if the coach is going to thrust them into the rotatation.

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