Dwight Howard has a message for his 76ers teammates for tonight’s pivotal Game 5 Eastern Conference series meeting against the Atlanta Hawks at the Wells Fargo Center.
“We have to finish,” Howard said following the Wednesday morning shootaround. “We have to come out. We got to dominate from the first quarter and finish the game. We can’t play around with this team. We can’t give them any life and hope.”
The best-of-seven series is tied 2-2 after Atlanta took a 103-100 Game 4 victory Monday night at State Farm Arena. Howard feels his teammates should be upset, especially Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris for getting snubbed for individual accolades. Embiid was the league MVP runner-up. Simmons was runner-up for defensive player of the year, while Harris was left off the All-Star team.
Embiid was named second-team All-NBA on Tuesday. Simmons and Harris were left off the first, second and third teams.
“In games like tonight, I would be [ticked] off and let everybody know: ‘Hey, I wasn’t on first team. Well, I’m going to be first team tonight.’ ‘I wasn’t defensive player of the year. I’m going to be defensive player of the year tonight and for the rest of the series,’” said Howard, an Atlanta native and former Hawk himself. “I feel like we have to come out with the attitude tonight like, ‘Hey, don’t forget about the 76ers. We war ready.’”
The reserve center feels the Sixers dropped the ball in Game 4 and doesn’t want Atlanta to build momentum in Game 5.
“The Hawks are a very scary team when you allow them to get confidence,” he said. “When you play a team like that, you have to dominate, you have to stay on their neck.
“I’m sorry, I love those guys in Atlanta. They’re my friends away from basketball. But right now, they’re trying to end my season, and take away my trophy, our trophy. So for our team, we got to put our foot on their neck and don’t let off.”
Howard stressed that he didn’t mean to sound vicious or rude. But he noted that’s what it’s going to take to win.
“You put your foot on their neck,” he said, “you press the gas, and you keep going forward.”