ATLANTA - Tony DiLeo might have known the next opponent on his team's schedule, but he said he didn't.
After the 76ers' 93-87 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night - their third straight - DiLeo, a smile on his lips, said he wasn't aware which team followed the Bobcats on the January lineup, that's how single-minded the Sixers' focus was that night.
"Who is next?" DiLeo inquired.
Why, it's the Atlanta Hawks, perched near the top of the Eastern Conference with a record of 22-13. The Sixers are 16-20.
Yesterday, the Sixers watched film and walked through sets at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine before flying to Atlanta. They play the Hawks at 2 p.m. today.
If the Sixers were hoping to slip quietly into Atlanta and quickly sneak out with a victory, the Orlando Magic made that unlikely.
The Sixers can expect an alert Hawks lineup, considering that on Friday the Magic pinned an embarrassing 34-point loss on Atlanta.
Turning that three-game win streak into four will take a better effort than the Sixers offered Friday night against the Bobcats.
"Defensively we weren't taking them out of anything," DiLeo said. "Guys were getting open shots, they were penetrating into the lane. ... I keep telling our team this: Our game's very simple, we got to play defense."
Playing Atlanta on Nov. 1 in the third game of this season, the Sixers led by as many as 23 points but eventually lost, 95-88. Now, that game feels as if it's from another season. Since then, the Sixers fired their head coach, changed their lineup, and lost starting power forward Elton Brand to a dislocated right shoulder.
"The ball has bounced our way for the past few games," said point guard Andre Miller, who scored 22 points Friday and whose all-around play has been an integral part of the Sixers' improved play. "We picked up our defense, the bench is forming, and the young guys are getting better. Elton Brand will come back, and we will just get better."
Miller added, "We want to hit teams before they hit us. That's what I am thinking before the game starts."