1. The man in the middle.

The Sixers hold a 12-2 record in games Spencer Hawes has been active for this season. They are 8-12 in all others. In other words, the big man is vital to a lengthy playoff run. Hawes has to get his Achilles and back woes under control.

 

2. Don’t look now.

Advancing to the second round of the tournament was the Sixers’ primary goal before the season began. A big key to achieving that will be winning the Atlantic Division, thus holding off Jeremy Lin and the hard-charging Knicks. The Sixers entered Thursday night with a three-game lead.

 

3. Find the bucket.

During the recent, five-game losing skid, defense hasn’t been the issue. The offense has managed just 87.5 points over the last 10 games as fears about the lack of a go-to guy late in games gain momentum.

 

4. Hard on Holiday.

Coach Doug Collins has been pushing starting point guard Jrue Holiday to be more aggressive offensively. Other than Lou Williams, Holiday is the only difference-maker in terms of penetration and playmaking. There’s a ton resting on the 21-year-old kid’s shoulders.

 

5. Let’s make a deal.

There will be plenty of rumors as the NBA’s March 15 trading deadline approaches (hey, Monta Ellis is in town March 2). But don’t expect team president Rod Thorn to dump his young nucleus to simply acquire a quick fix.