This game started well enough with the Hawks trailing by two after one quarter and actually taking a six point lead into the half. Atlanta played the third quarter to a stalemate before Philly started the fourth on a run and outscored the Hawks by eleven to take home a five point victory 105-100. Atlanta scored 59 points in the first half but could only manage 41 in the second. 20 of those second half points came in the fourth quarter. The Hawks allowed the Sixers 31 points in the fourth quarter alone.
When looking back over this game a couple of things stand out. After utilizing the bench for much of the season through the good and the bad, Larry Drew elected last night to go with just a seven man rotation on the second night of a back to back. Granted that a lot of the regulars didn't play in the fourth quarter of the Chicago blowout but as Drew has reminded us this team is 70+ games into the season and is suffering from physical and mental fatigue. Philly's bench was the deciding factor in this game as Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young combined to score 33 of the Sixers 39 bench points. Zaza Pachulia and Jamal Crawford combined to score 14 for the Hawks.
"That wasn’t the problem," Drew said of the defense of Williams. "I thought we did a really good job on Louis. A couple times we played him a little too soft and he just jumped right up and shot it. We actually fouled him twice at the 3-point line to send him to the free-throw line. That wasn’t the problem. We had the game under control. We just let it get away."
That answer left Sugiura puzzled and it does myself as well.
Coach Drew's quote does bring me to the next topic which is Atlanta had this game under control until a late Philly run. Atlanta looked powerless against that run and after they gave up the lead it looked like they once again checked out. I think a direct relation can be drawn from the play of Josh Smith for the Hawks added energy early. Smith stayed closer to the basket for much of this game scoring 33 points while grabbing 12 rebounds. When this team has an inside threat their offense is better and flows much more so. The problem is they may go several games without establishing anyone inside. Once the second half rolled around, the offense once again started to drift away from the basket and in that decisive fourth quarter the Hawks settled for the first available jump shot more times than not.
Post game Ken Sugiura caught up with Joe Johnson with shot selection and more importantly who is taking the shots was the topic.
"Down the stretch, I just think we don’t understand who should get the ball. Throughout the game, everyone’s free-flow playing, taking shots, making plays. … (But in the last five minutes), we don’t understand or we don’t know who that person is. If you notice the last four or five minutes, (expletive), I don’t think we know who should take the (expletive) shot.
Sugiura did note that Johnson seemed to be more bothered by the loss than anyone else in the locker room.
"I was just trying to play off the guys that were getting plays called for them. I know they were trapping Joe heavily and I was just trying to put the onus on myself not to settle."
Is Josh defending his actions here by saying that Joe was the focal point of the Sixers defense? Is Joe upset that he didn't get the ball or just by the lack of knowing where the ball should go? Since Smith brought up putting the onus on himself not to settle, is it strange that Zaza Pachulia can get yanked from the game for taking what is perceived as a bad shot in a blow out loss yet Smith and other players have had the green light to do as they want the entire season?
Those things my friends are a lot of the small things that over time can derail what was once a very promising season.