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Poor third quarter dooms Hawks in loss to Sixers

The Hawks kept it close for two and a bit quarters but once Philly got going...

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks dropped their fifth straight game as they fell to the Philadelphia 76ers (who won their ninth straight game, without Joel Embiid on this night) 101-91 in their first home game in over two weeks on Friday night.

Damion Lee scored a career-high 20 points while Taurean Prince and Isaiah Taylor both added 12 points each (albeit on poor percentages).

For the Sixers, Ben Simmons posted a triple-double — 13 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists — in 27 minutes while former Hawk Ersan Ilyasova added 21 points and 16 rebounds on his return to Philips Arena.

Sixers pull away in decisive third quarter

After a horrible first half on the offensive end by both teams — combining for 4-of-36 from three in the first half — the Hawks found themselves heading into the break trailing by just six points, and then by three points after Damion Lee’s three-pointer made it a 47-44 game in favor of the Sixers.

But that’s as close as it got in the second half as the Sixers tore away from the Hawks, leading by as many as 27 points by the end of the third quarter, basically rendering the entire fourth quarter as garbage time (though the Hawks did manage to close the gap significantly as the Sixers let up).

So, what happened in that third quarter?

The Sixers’ offense finally started clicking as they scored 39 points on 69% shooting from the field and — crucially — the three-pointer finally began to fall as they nailed six of their nine three-point attempts in the third quarter.

The Sixers’ ball movement in the third quarter was great, tallying 15 of their 34 assists in the third quarter alone, here’s an example which results in a Dario Saric three:

JJ Redick also got going in the third quarter, scoring 11 of his 19 points in the period, hitting this three-pointer:

The player of this game was definitely Ben Simmons — he really was just playing games out there, playing chess while everyone else played checkers:

Exhibit A, as he no-looks this pass inside to Richaun Holmes for the dunk:

Exhibit B, as he goes behind his back to Marco Belinelli:

In addition to the Sixers finally making some shots, the Hawks picked up where they left off in the second quarter (a quarter in which they scored 14 points) as they scored just 18 points on 27% shooting from the field in the third quarter — making just six field goals.

The Sixers, to their credit, played some good defense in the third to make life difficult for the Hawks.

On this possession, Dario Saric plays some good defense on Taurean Prince, contesting Prince’s fadeaway jumper:

Isaiah Taylor had had some success getting to — not necessarily finishing in — the paint but Robert Covington played him very well on two possessions early in the third. One where he sticks with Taylor on the drive and forces a miss:

And one where Covington recovers after a screen to block the shot from Taylor:

Again, Philly force a tough shot as Amir Johnson defends this possession from Dewayne Dedmon well:

On the perimeter this time, J.J. Redick does a good job closing out the shooter (Damion Lee this time) and the three from Lee is well off:

The Hawks themselves had some decent looks but they just wouldn’t fall.

Here, Tyler Dorsey comes off of a screen and steps into an open shot but can’t hit the mid-range J:

Off of a miss, Miles Plumlee grabs the offensive rebound and finds an open Taylor, who can’t hit the open three:

So... You get the idea: good Philly offense, good Philly defense and bad Atlanta offense is a bad combination for the Hawks.

“We made a three early, they took an early timeout. Redick was a problem it felt like (for) a lot of the night, coming off screens... Transition, they got some more in transition,” said Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer of the third quarter. “We couldn’t score. It’s a bad recipe: we were struggling offensively and they were really good on their end.”

The Hawks’ lack of bodies definitely seemed to catch up with them in the third quarter but they hadn’t played a great game anyways (unlike the Minnesota game) and it was their first game at home after that six-game road trip. The first game back home after a long trip is usually a tough one but Budenholzer was happy with the effort of his squad despite all of that.

“...Coming back off a long road trip, it’s hard for you to get your legs under you and get ready to go,” said Budenholzer postgame. “Down a few guys. I think the guys kept working. Glad they kept competing there in the end...”

Again, good effort from the Hawks in the final quarter — outscoring the Sixers 32-15 — even after the Sixers let up a bit, which left Sixers coach Brett Brown was furious at, burning every single one of his timeouts.

“...I thought in the fourth period, it was poor,” said Brown. “We were up 28 points, I think they got it back down to 10 points. That can’t happen...”

Dealing with a lack of point guards/bodies

It was an interesting night for the Hawks’ rotation.

Dennis Schröder was ruled out for the rest of the season prior to the game — who now joins Kent Bazemore in that respect — in addition to the already sidelined Malcolm Delaney, DeAndre’ Bembry, Jaylen Morris and Antonius Cleveland.

With Josh Magette and Tyler Cavanaugh assigned to the G-League ahead of the Hawks’ G-League affiliate Erie Bayhawks’ playoff game on Saturday, the Hawks were left with just one point guard: Isaiah Taylor — who ended up spraining his ankle before returning to the game.

This meant that ball handling responsibilities would be split (since Taylor can’t play all 48 minutes), and in the end they were split between Taylor, Prince, Tyler Dorsey and Damion Lee.

It went OK. Taylor dished out seven assists with three turnovers, Prince dished three assists with three turnovers but it was John Collins who surprised with a career-high six assists.

Let’s look at a few...

Here, Collins finds the cutting Dedmon, who smashes it home, not wanting to be outdone by Markelle Fultz who posterized Lee the possession before:

On this possession, Collins tracks the offensive rebound and sweetly taps it in the direction of Damion Lee, who hits the three:

Off of a Sixers turnover, Collins comes up with a steal and leads the fastbreak before finding Miles Plumlee for a layup:

For these assists, it wouldn’t really have mattered if there was more than one point guard available — nice to see Collins’ progression when it comes to moving the ball/awareness of plays.

Outside of that, we also saw some interesting rotation-stuff.

Miles Plumlee played his first game since March 22nd against the Kings — no surprise he did in the absence of Tyler Cavanaugh.

Plumlee also featured in a very interesting/weird fourth quarter lineup that featured Mike Muscala and John Collins... Together... At the same time... That was a real lineup.

“...Played some unusual lineups and tried some different things...”, said Budenholzer in his opening statement.

That was certainly the case...

Going forward, it remains to be seen how Erie get on in their playoff game. You’d imagine that Josh Magette will be recalled regardless to give the Hawks some point guard relief, because they need it. The Hawks did well enough with the personnel they had available to them.

Damion Lee’s encouraging night

If there was one positive to take from the night it was Damion Lee, who scored a career-high 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting.

Lee had success scoring in the paint, the majority of his buckets came from there:

Let’s look at a few of those shots in the paint and how they came to be...

On this possession, Lee skips past Saric and gets to the rim for score plus the foul:

Nice extension displayed by Lee on that possession.

As we know, Marco Belinelli is not a great defender and Lee takes advantage of that by blowing by him and hitting the runner:

Classic Marco defense...

But he wasn’t the only one Lee got by: he nips by J.J. Redick in the second half and then uses the glass to convert this layup:

And for his most impressive basket of the night, Lee attacks after receiving the pass from Dorsey, draws the contact, puts up the floater, hits it and draws the foul — and-1:

I’m not the biggest fan of Damion Lee’s game, but that was a very impressive play.

Coach Budenholzer, however, does appear to be a fan and he liked what Lee brought on both ends of the floor last night.

“He continues to play well on both ends of the court,” said Budenholzer of Lee. “I like what he does defensively, sticking his nose in and competing. He made some shots, gets to the basket, scores in different places. Back-door cut for a layup, things like that. Just happy with how he’s playing.”

In a game where Prince and Taylor both struggled from the field, it was good to see Lee pick up the scoring mantle, and do it on efficient shooting.

No place like home...

On the Hawks’ first home game since March 15th, two phenomenons occurred.

First, a fourth half court shot by a fan of the season was made:

Cash, money.

And then, Hot Sauce lost???

You don’t normally see these two occurrences on a normal night at Philips Arena.

Ain’t no place like Philips Arena. Good to be back.

The Hawks (21-55) will remain in Atlanta as they take on fellow division rivals Orlando Magic on Sunday evening, in a game that could consolidate the Hawks with the worst record in the Eastern Conference.


Stay tuned.