The Hawks began the night with a woeful 1st half performance, trailing 31-18 after 12 minutes, and taking a 10-point deficit into halftime. Philadelphia, with some help from lackluster defense, shot a sparkling 55% from the field in the 1st quarter and 51% for the half, while the Hawks missed their first 10 3-point attempts (yikes) in route to just 32% shooting from the floor and 2-for-15 from 3-point distance at the break. Plainly, the Hawks displayed a total lack of energy (copyright, Larry Drew) early on, and with Philadelphia capitalizing on their open looks, it was a perfect recipe for disaster.
After the break, things didn't immediately improve, as Philly maintained a strong lead over the first 8 minutes of clock time. However, with the Hawks trailing 71-62 with 4:13 remaining the third, alarm bells went off. The Hawks spurted to a 13-2 run over the close of the quarter on the way to a 75-73 advantage, but unfortunately, their work wasn't nearly done. Philly charged back to the lead at 85-84 thanks to a 6-0 blitz in the middle of the 4th quarter, and Atlanta wasn't remotely "safe" until Lou Williams converted a three (the capper to 8 straight points) to give the Hawks a 100-95 lead with 1:12 to play.
In a win, there are usually some positives, and the biggest ones from this game were Paul Millsap and Lou Williams. Atlanta's lone All-Star was outstanding from the opening tip, putting up 15 points and 7 rebounds in the first half and finishing with 28 points (on 9 for 15 shooting) and an amazing 17 rebounds for the game in 36 minutes. He was the rock in the midst of a storm, and the biggest reason that the Hawks escaped.
If Millsap was the consistency, Williams was the flash, as he utterly exploded in the second half. After a ho-hum, 6-point performance in the 1st half, Lou scored 11 points (on 6 field goal attempts) and dished out 4 assists in the 3rd quarter, and he finished things off with a flurry in the fourth, scoring the aforementioned 8 straight points and finishing with 22 points on 7 of 12 shooting.
Kyle Korver returned from a 6-game absence (that non-coincidentally went along with the losing skid), and it was a mixed bag. The sharpshooter started the game with a scoreless first half that included an 0-for-5 shooting performance, but after the break, Korver awakened to the tune of 11 points on 3-for-5 shooting, and that is encouraging.
It certainly wasn't all positives for the Hawks, though, as many players visibly struggled despite the narrow victory. Pero Antic had arguably his worst game of the season, shooting just 1 of 8 from the field and 0 of 5 from 3-point land, while Jeff Teague wasn't much better. Atlanta's point guard did finish with 12 points and 5 assists in the game, but he was listless for the great majority of the game on both ends and did nothing to dismiss his reputation for inconsistency.
Beating this version of the Sixers isn't impressive, but rather simply necessary. However, in the midst of a playoff push (if that's what we're calling it), it was a crucial push down the stretch to grab a do-or-die victory, and Atlanta can breathe a touch easier despite the difficulty in grabbing the win.