The Atlanta Hawks fell to 15-9 on the season with a 99-80 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night. The Hawks battled in the first half even taking a brief 34-32 lead in the second quarter, but bad shot selection, turnovers, and spotty defense undid the Hawks for the second night in a row. The Hawks trailed at the half 51-45, and that deficit was directly attributed to eight Hawks turnovers that led to 13 Sixers points.
Philadelphia had just five turnovers, which led to seven Atlanta points, and that six point difference in points off turnovers was the difference in the half. The Sixers, who have not been a particularly good shooting team this season, shot 53.7% from the field including a sizzling 5-of-8 (62.5%) from behind the three-point line in the first half. Meanwhile, Atlanta shot just 4-of-11 (36.4%) from behind the arc, while shooting 44.2% from the field. The Hawks sloppy ball-handling led to some of those easy transition looks, and the Hawks struggled on defensive rotations.
The Hawks struggles continued in the third quarter where the Sixers extend their lead out to 72-56 before Lou Williams scored eight of his 13 in the final 1:06 of the quarter to keep the game within reach at 72-64. Philadelphia dominated the fourth quarter at both ends and they were able to cruise to the easy 99-80 victory. The only suspense in the fourth quarter was whether the Sixers would score 100 and earn their fans free Big Macs. Unfortunately for Philly fans even when they win, they can’t win, as the Sixers, sitting on 99 points, dribbled out the last twenty seconds without a shot attempt letting the crowd hungry for yet another night.
Atlanta’s fourth quarter was ugly. They were outscored 27-16, and seemed completely disinterested in trying to mount a serious comeback, despite entering the quarter down just eight. The offense seemed predicated on early-clock jumpers from Lou Williams, or to dribble the clock out for a tough look from one of their bigs. From the 9:45 mark to the 5:58 mark in the fourth quarter, the Hawks were scoreless, and allowed Philadelphia to stretch their lead from a manageable nine points to a nearly insurmountable 19 points.
Josh Smith led the Hawks with 17 points and six rebounds, but was ineffective in the second half scoring just four points and Larry Drew sat Smith for much of the half, possibly trying to rest his star with their fourth game in five nights looming tomorrow night against the Chicago Bulls. Al Horford’s struggles continued as he shot just 2-of-10 from the field, scoring seven points and grabbing eight rebounds. Horford is 9-of-35 in the last three games, and really has been unable to find his shooting stroke from the mid-range all season. Lou Williams had 13 points in his first game back in Philadelphia, but, after shooting the Hawks back into the game late in the third quarter, Williams went cold in the fourth and ended the night just 4-of-12 from the field and 2-of-7 from three. Atlanta finished the night shooting a dismal 39% from the field, and shot just 36% from three.
Philadelphia was led by Thaddeus Young with 18 points and 11 rebounds, Jason Richardson with 17 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists, and Evan Turner with 21 points, six assists, and five rebounds in his return from injury. The Sixers dominated on the boards in the second half (Atlanta actually led them on the glass 23-19 in the first half) to finish with a 45-37 (15-13 OR) rebound differential. The Sixers also forced 17 Hawks turnovers, turning them into 26 points, while only turning it over 12 times for 12 points. They shot 51.4% from the field and had 40 points in the paint (Atlanta had 24) in what was one of Philadelphia’s best offensive performances, and one of Atlanta’s poorest defensive performances.
Atlanta will have to bounce back quickly as they return home for the Chicago Bulls Saturday night and have to find some energy on the flight back. The Hawks need the win to get a split in this tough four games in five nights stretch that featured two different road-home back-to-backs.
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