The Atlanta Hawks dropped their second consecutive game as they fell in Philadelphia 113-92 at Wells Fargo Center on Monday night.
Kent Bazemore led the Hawks in scoring with 18 points while Omari Spellman, Trae Young and Dewayne Dedmon all added 11 points.
For the Sixers, Ben Simmons led with 21 points and 12 rebounds while Markelle Fultz added 16 points.
Let’s get into this one.
Third quarter proves the difference
This game was going well for the Hawks at the half.
Behind arguably Atlanta’s best first quarter of the season, the Hawks headed into the break tied at 47. The defense was playing well (though the Sixers missed a lot of shots), their game-plan on Joel Embiid was going well, the offense was... ok — it was going well, in short.
And then the third quarter arrived.
The Sixers outscored the Hawks 31-13 in the third and turned this game into a blowout in a hurry, with the majority of the fourth quarter ending up in garbage time for the likes of Tyler Dorsey and Jaylen Adams to see some court time.
So, how did it go so wrong so quickly?
Offensively, nothing really worked for the Hawks in the third as they shot 25% from the field (6-of-24) and 11% from three (1-of-11).
The Hawks just went cold in the third. They had some very good looks that just didn’t go down.
In transition, this is a quality shot from Kent Bazemore that just doesn’t go down:
The right-corner three is a shot that Taurean Prince shot 54% from last season and he gets a decent look at it again here, but it falls short:
Near the end of the third, Trae Young gets a look at an open three after JJ Redick falls over but, again, it just doesn’t go down:
However, there were times the Hawks certainly did not help themselves with their shot selection.
On the block, Spellman elects to turn around into a contested jump shot that misses:
In conjunction with the Hawks’ difficult shot selection, the Sixers’ defense clamped down in the third quarter.
Here, former Hawk Mike Muscala plays Vince Carter well on this possession, contesting the shot well and forcing the miss:
Good defense but that’s not a fantastic shot by Carter...
But if you want to talk about ‘Why on earth are you taking this shot’ shot selection, Miles Plumlee, ladies and gentlemen:
A fading hook shot on Joel Embiid? Yikes... Why? Again, good defense from Philadelphia but why is that shot being taken in the first place?
And then there was some good defense in general from the home team, with Mike Muscala coming up with a nice block on Trae Young on the drive:
“Shots weren’t going down, (we) weren’t making plays,” said Trae Young of the second half. “They made adjustments at halftime, that’s just how the game works sometimes. Sometimes it falls, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Defensively in the third quarter, things also got away from the Hawks as the Sixers scored 31 points, including a key 11-0 run but also behind a key quarter from Ben Simmons, who scored 15 of his 21 points in the third quarter.
Simmons took advantage of the Hawks’ frequent double-teaming of Joel Embiid, making cuts off of the ball with Embiid holding the ball and the Hawks, as a result, doubling.
On the block, Embiid holds possession of the ball and has two defenders in close proximity, though one of those is Vince Carter, who is also conscious of Dario Saric and is shading between Embiid and Saric. This is where Taurean Princes begins to arrive on the scene, leaving Simmons, who makes the cut and Embiid finds his running mate for the score:
On the opposite block, Simmons drops the ball to Embiid and as Prince — who was already very close to Embiid — helps, Simmons nonchalantly makes the cut, Embiid feeds him the ball and Simmons scores:
On-ball this time, Simmons looks to work Prince in the post, kills his dribble, ducks in underneath, gets by Prince and hits the right-handed floater for the basket and the foul:
Simmons would head to the free throw line and would hit one of his five free throws in what was a huge third quarter for the Aussie — he was the difference between the two sides in the third quarter.
“He has a second gear that a lot of people in this league don’t have,” said Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce of Simmons. “If he can get a rebound, if he can get an outlet and just get out and run. If you’re not set, if you’re not back and loaded up, he gets to the rim in three dribbles. I thought that was the key for them coming out. His pace, his attack mentality, and they were just able to find shooters.”
Outside of Simmons, the Sixers still struggled to hit from beyond the arc but had a field day at the rim in the third, shooting 9-of-10.
Transition defense was a problem in the third, as Robert Covington streaks away and dunks after receiving a great outlet pass from Simmons:
With Simmons handling in transition, he picks out the streaking Saric, and no Hawk is able to slow him down (Prince wanted no part of it) and it’s an easy bucket for Saric:
After a Prince pass is intercepted, the Sixers head the other way with Saric. Saric gets to the paint, offloads the ball to Simmons, who finds Redick (who isn’t guarded) behind the arc and as the Hawks defense scrambles, Redicks side-steps to his left and hoists the three that capped off an 11-0 Sixers run:
And to cap it off, a defensive lapse allows Landry Shamet to score off of a cut:
Offensively and defensively, it just wasn’t to be for the Hawks in the third quarter and everything went downhill from there, a shame for the Hawks given their first half was strong.
“(We) had a game-plan, we stuck to it, tie it going into the half, third quarter (in the) first five minutes it just got away from us,” said Pierce. “We didn’t capitalize. We were good in what we wanted to do and accomplish defensively. We were good in what wanted to do and accomplish offensively. We just didn’t capitalize on that end.
“I thought we had some good looks that didn’t go down,” continued Pierce. “We had a couple of lapses defensively to start the third quarter. Obviously, they were prepared for some of the adjustments we were making. We just had a couple of lapses right at the start and it was a 10/12 point stretch and we just never really recovered...”
After the third quarter ended, the Sixers didn’t waste a ton of time pushing the lead beyond 20 as they finally began to hit some outside shots but the game was realistically over when they did start hitting from three.
A shame for the Hawks, who played a very strong half but that third quarter absolutely killed them and turned this game on its head.
The game-plan on Joel Embiid
The Hawks entered this game with a clear objective. Well, two clear objectives. Don’t guard Markelle Fultz and, more importantly, double-team Joel Embiid in the post.
The Hawks wanted to make life difficult for Embiid and they succeeded in that regard, holding Embiid to just 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting.
Situations like this made Embiid uncomfortable, forcing him to get rid of the ball and turning the ball over in this instance as the Hawks force the travel:
Again, the Hawks send an extra body over to Embiid on the block/in the paint and make his life difficult, forcing him to pass to a teammate:
But of course, as we’ve looked at with Simmons in the third quarter, Embiid (who finished with six assists) and the Sixers found a way to counter this pressure, by having Simmons make cuts off-ball with Embiid holding/handling the ball, as well as starting JJ Redick to start the second half: an extra shooter, as opposed to Fultz who the Hawks just didn’t bother guarding.
This was all part of Pierce’s game-plan, and he discussed the Sixers’ adjustments post-game.
“They started JJ Redick to start the third quarter, so they add a shooter on the floor,” said Pierce. “It’s hard to really double team — we were throwing a lot of bodies at Joel to try and disrupt what he was doing — and it’s tough when you have another shooter like JJ that’s out there, because now you’re chasing, you’re moving around and it’s hard to really stay locked into what we were doing. They were great. They adjusted, they made the proper adjustment they needed coming out of the half.”
The risk with this strategy double-teaming Embiid was always likely but the Hawks executed their game-plan on Embiid well. He was definitely limited in what he did in terms of scoring and the Hawks forced others to make shots (and the Sixers missed a lot of shots). The Hawks just didn’t have enough to match the Sixers after the fact.
Prince’s tough night
It was...not a good night for Taurean Prince, who scored five points on 1-of-11 shooting from the field and 1-of-5 from three.
Prince’s decision making wasn’t always ideal in this game and that was reflective in his shot selection at times.
Here, Prince commits to a poor drive in transition with Simmons right there in front of him and turns the ball over:
In the corner, again with Simmons draped on him, Prince elects to take a contested three-pointer in the corner which misses:
That’s a really poor shot by Prince...you just have to move on in that situation. Not to say he can’t hit those (he hits plenty of poor looking shots) but it’s not a great shot to take in the first place.
There’s not a ton to say here, just to make note of it because it was pretty poor. Prince has been solid this season but being a shooter and being a player who likes to jack shots up at times, he’s going to have these kind of evenings.
Wouldn’t worry too much about it.
The Hawks (2-4) are back in action tonight in Cleveland once again, who are reeling after an 0-6 start having just fired coach Ty Lue and with the news that Kevin Love could be out for over a month.
Should be...interesting? Let’s find out.