With the backdrop of a season-long, seven-game winning streak, the Atlanta Hawks entered Wednesday night with a considerable amount of momentum. That momentum did not necessarily push the team to an outstanding performance, but Atlanta did more than enough to outlast the hapless Philadelphia 76ers by a final score of 95-79.
The Hawks began the night with a mini-flourish, and to be blunt, it felt like Atlanta could run away and hide in the early going. Atlanta scored the first seven points, while forcing Philly into three straight empty (and ugly) possessions, and things were off to a strong start.
The Sixers did respond, though, with six straight points of their own, and the home team never stepped on the accelerator in the first quarter. The Hawks started just 8 of 19 from the field with 4 turnovers in the first 9 minutes of the game, and Atlanta led by just four after 12 minutes of clock time with help from an 8-0 run by the Sixers midway through the period.
Atlanta continued with some uneven play in the second quarter, but the visiting team seemed intent on letting them off the hook. The Hawks led by just five at 36-31 during a mid-quarter timeout, and to that point, the offense was sputtering visibly. Then, Atlanta scored five quick points, including a gorgeous play out of the aforementioned timeout, and that helped the team lengthen the lead to nine at the break.
The offense, still, did not perform well in the first half, shooting just 38.8% from the field, including an unsatisfactory 6-for-22 from three. Kyle Korver did yeoman's work (as usual) with 3-for-5 from beyond the arc and 11 points, but the rest of the team struggled, and only a subpar opponent allowed the Hawks to hold their solid lead as halftime arrived.
To the dismay of everyone involved, the third quarter was just as aesthetically displeasing. The two sides combined for just 41 points combined, and the Atlanta lead fluctuated behind 8 and 13 points for the entirety of the 12-minute period. DeMarre Carroll's play was a bright-spot for Atlanta, as he amassed a double-double before the midway point of the third, but aside from that, it was inept play from Philadelphia that was mirrored by Atlanta.
On the bright side, the final "blow" was coming from the Hawks. Paul Millsap connected on a three, Mike Muscala followed that with a pure jumper from 20 feet and Kyle Korver provided the dagger with a three from the top of the key to give Atlanta an insurmountable 17-point lead with 6:54 to go in the game. This was a beautiful change of pace from the utter drudgery that took place previously in the late third and early fourth quarters, and the Sixers would never climb within 14 points for the remainder of the night in a wire-to-wire for the home team.
It was not a particularly inspiring effort on the whole for Atlanta, but a couple of players performed admirably. DeMarre Carroll posted his first double-double of the season, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Paul Millsap added 17 points and 8 rebounds, with Kyle Korver producing 17 points, including 5 threes on only 7 attempts. Mike Muscala emerged from the depths of the bench with a strong showing (12 points and 7 rebounds in 20 minutes), and even John Jenkins saw court time in the final moments. On the negative side, Jeff Teague struggled (4 points, 6 assists, 1-5 FG) and Dennis Schröder finished at just 2 for 9 from the floor, but in the end, the opponent drove this one home.
Mike Budenholzer will not be particularly pleased with this overall performance (at least I would assume that he would not be), but this is yet another win for a team that is now an impressive 15-6 on the season. The Atlanta Hawks will put this eight-game winning streak on the line once again on Friday night, as they host the Orlando Magic. Stay tuned.